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Burundi7 March 2003

President Buyoya prohibits radio stations from airing statements from rebels

On 4 March 2003, President Buyoya ordered all Burundian radio stations to cease airing messages from two rebel groups in the country. Reporters Without Borders expressed its concern over the decision in a letter to the president.

"In a country where radio broadcasts are the principal news source, and just as peace talks are underway, it is unacceptable that Burundian citizens should be left without access to certain news stories," stated Robert Ménard, the organisation’s secretary-general. Reporters Without Borders urged the president to lift the ban and see to it that journalists are allowed to work in a free and safe environment in the country.

On 4 March, President Buyoya summoned management representatives from all public and private radio stations in the country. He ordered them to cease mentioning or airing statements from two rebel groups, the Democracy Defence Forces (Forces pour la défense de la démocratie, FDD) and National Liberation Force (Force nationale de libération, FNL), who have neither signed nor implemented the cease-fire agreements. The ban comes a few days after negotiations between the government and the FDD broke off.

The head of state did not specify what the consequences might be should the radio stations ignore his order. One private radio station director told Reporters Without Borders that journalists would be forced to ignore news about certain rebel groups from now on and would be unable to perform their job duties properly.

Reporters Without Borders recalls that the Burundian government took a similar decision on 16 May 2002. At the time, the defence minister, Major General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, had prohibited media outlets from publishing or broadcasting interviews with rebels. The government had also placed Burundian websites under surveillance.

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