JULY 22, 2005
Posted: August 17, 2005
Radio Publique Africaine
RPA fell silent around 5 p.m. local time as a large group of police broke into the station compound, padlocked its studios, and cut off its transmitter, local sources said. The closure took place despite an earlier compromise deal between the authorities and RPA.
The National Communications Council–known by its French acronym CNC–ordered RPA indefinitely closed on July 15, alleging that its recent election coverage was biased and that it had insulted the council. RPA director Alexis Sinduhije, a 2004 recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, denied the council’s allegation of bias and said the station would defy the ban.
On July 19, however, RPA agreed to close for 48 hours, following a compromise deal mediated by the Association of Burundian Journalists (ABJ), the Association of Radio Broadcasters, and the Burundian Press Observatory, a self-regulatory body for the profession. Mediators said that as part of the compromise, the CNC had agreed to lift the ban at the end of the 48 hours. It did not do so, however.
RPA resumed broadcasting on July 21 and continued until police moved in the following day. According to CPJ sources, orders to send in the police came from the office of President Domitien Ndayizeye, whose FRODEBU party lost to the former rebel movement CNDD-FDD in recent municipal and parliamentary elections. The three professional organizations mediating in the dispute continued their efforts.
On July 27, the CNC authorized the station to resume broadcasting. President Ndayizeye also named a new CNC, following the resignation Jean Pierre Manda as its chairman. The new CNC is headed by a former journalist and includes RPA’s deputy director Jean-Marie Hicuburundi.
Hicuburundi told the Committee to Protect Journalists that RPA wanted an official inventory of equipment before it went back on air, to ensure that there was no loss or damage to its property as a result of the forced closure. The station went back on air July 30.