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Burundi21 May 2002

Government bars media from disseminating interviews with rebels

On 16 May 2002, the Burundian defence minister, Major-General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, barred media from publishing or broadcasting interviews with rebels. Reporters Without Borders is concerned by the decision and views it as "a measure designed to censor and control information." "In a conflict, it is only natural that media outlets would seek to gather the opinions of all the belligerents," stated Robert Ménard, the organisation’s secretary general. Reporters Without Borders urged the minister to lift the ban and see to it that journalists are able to work without obstruction and in full security in the country.

According to information collected by Reporters Without Borders, the defence minister stated that "disseminating interviews with rebels assists them in their war effort." He did not specify the penalties that would be imposed on media outlets that do not follow his directive. "In any event, we are implementing this measure as we know perfectly well that we do not have a choice," a Burundian radio journalist told Reporters Without Borders.

The minister’s announcement came a few days after a private radio station broadcast an interview with a rebel leader who was believed to be dead. According to the local independent organisation Observatoire de l’action gouvernementale (Government Action Watch), "the authorities’ measure is an obstacle to press freedom. It is an attack on the freedom to disseminate information, all the more so since the government has already taken the decision to negotiate with the armed groups."

Reporters Without Borders recalls that on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, the communications minister announced his intention to revise the press law in order to "expurgate unnecessary or harmful institutional restrictions."

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