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Blog   |   Burundi

Silence in Burundi as violence forces independent press into exile

A Bujumbura road is blocked during unrest over elections in Burundi in July. Many Burundians, including journalists, have gone into exile to flee the violence. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

On June 24, a grenade was thrown through the window of Voice of America correspondent Diane Nininahazwe's home. It was one of three cases CPJ has documented in recent months where grenades were thrown into the homes of journalists in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura. Fortunately, there have been no fatalities, but there have also been no arrests.

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi must investigate attacks on journalists

The body of a man killed overnight lies on a street as polls open for the presidential elections in Bujumbura, Burundi, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP/Jerome Delay)

The Committee to Protect Journalists and 18 other organizations are urging Burundi authorities to investigate attacks on journalists and human rights defenders. Since the April announcement that President Pierre Nkurunziza would run for a third term, defying constitutional limitations and sparking months of protests, journalists have been routinely targeted. At least five radio stations were attacked and their staff threatened, inducing a mass exodus of journalists fleeing the country and leaving an information vacuum at a critical juncture. In presidential elections in mid-July, Nkurunziza won nearly 70 percent of the vote.

August 6, 2015 1:33 PM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi

Press law debate and journalist's release signal hope for Burundi's media

Supporters of Radio Publique Africaine director Bob Rugurika crowd around the station's offices to celebrate his release on bail last month. Rugurika's release comes as Burundi debates an easing of press laws. (AFP/Esdras Ndikumana)

Burundi journalists may have more space to report freely ahead of the country's controversial elections this year after the legislative assembly pushed for amendments to a draconian press law and a radio director was released on bail.

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi's journalist union takes repressive press law to court

Alexandre Niyungeko, of the Burundi Union of Journalists, speaks out about the restrictive press law. (IWACU)

If the state decides that a journalist's article in Burundi jeopardizes someone's "moral integrity" under the country's Media Law it can demand that the journalist reveals sources, and it can suspend the publication. "It's a backwards, freedom-killing law," said Alexandre Niyungeko, the founder and head of the 300-member Burundi Union of Journalists. Despite the press fraternity's best efforts, including an appeal replete with 15,000 signatures from organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, urging the president to desist from signing it, President Pierre Nkurunziza passed the bill into law on June 4, 2013.

Blog   |   Burundi, Gambia, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

A bid to rid Africa of criminal defamation, sedition laws

The African Union's special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, has launched an auspicious initiative in East Africa to counter criminal defamation and sedition laws. Since independence, authorities and business interests in the East and Horn region have used criminal laws on sedition, libel, and insult--often relics of former, colonial administrations--to silence their critics in the press. "Criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than protect the right to a reputation," Tlakula said in a statement.

July 12, 2013 3:48 PM ET


Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi reporter shot by police for seeking information

Patrick Paggio
Niyonkuru is recovering from a bullet wound to the arm. (Courtesy Patrick Paggio

Burundi's government took unusually swift action last week in response to the police shooting of a radio reporter, after the journalist sought information at a roadblock in the capital Bujumbura where market vendors were allegedly being "taxed" for passage. Perhaps the shooting could have been averted if authorities had bothered to discipline officers involved in previous attacks on journalists.

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi police attack journalists marching for Ruvakuki

Burundi journalists react to tear gas at Tuesday's protest. (Teddy Mazina)

On Tuesday, Burundi's press corps did what it has done for the past three weeks: protest the imprisonment of one of its own. Hassan Ruvakuki is a reporter jailed since November 28, 2011 on anti-state charges; for the first time, the journalists wore white t-shirts showing Ruvakuki in his green prison uniform. But this time, the reaction by police caught journalists by surprise.

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi journalists march to support Ruvakuki

Hassan Ruvakuki (IWACU)

At 8 o'clock Tuesday morning roughly 50 Burundian journalists silently marched around the courthouses in the capital, Bujumbura, and the offices of the justice minister, protesting the imprisonment of their colleague, Hassan Ruvakuki.

"They sentenced him to three years without following the law," said Patrick Nduwimana, one of the protest organizers and the interim director of local private radio station Bonesha FM. A week earlier, on Tuesday, January 8, an appeals court in Burundi had sentenced Ruvakuki, a reporter for Bonesha FM and the French government-backed Radio France Internationale, to three years imprisonment for "working with a criminal group."

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi media defy censorship order

A woman mourns at the burial of a man killed in the Gatumba shooting. (Reuters)

Tensions between the Burundi government and the local press are bound to increase as several media this week defied an order not to investigate or discuss a recent massacre. While officials say the measure is "temporary" and necessary to safeguard national unity and the course of justice, independent journalists are asserting their right to publish information in the interest of public accountability.

September 30, 2011 5:40 PM ET


Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi's journalists and lawyers face intense harassment

Rugurika (CPJ)

It's possible that no journalist in the world has received more court summonses in recent weeks than Editor Bob Rugurika of Burundi's Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), a station founded by CPJ award-winner Alexis Sinduhije.

On Tuesday, for the fifth time since July 18, Rugurika was interrogated by a magistrate in the capital, Bujumbura, about programs aired by his station, according to news reports and CPJ research. The magistrate allegedly asked Rugurika to "correct" a broadcast that pointed out that a 1996 U.N. report had implicated an official involved in the setting up of Burundi's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a massacre, RPA Editor-in-Chief Eric Manirakiza told CPJ.

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