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Burundi15 September 2003

Radio station suspended after giving air-time to rebels

Reporters Without Borders called on the Burundian government today to immediately end its shutdown of the radio station Isanganiro for allowing an anti-government rebel leader to go on the air.

"This decision deprives people of news and is especially damaging when the country is starting new talks to re-establish peace," said the press freedom organisation in its request to communications minister Albert Mbonerane. "Burundians want to form their opinions freely. It is not for the authorities to say what material should be broadcast."

The privately-owned Isanganiro went off the air on 13 September after the minister ordered it to close for a week, accusing it of broadcasting "defamatory statements about the government at a time when it is trying to achieve an overall and permanent ceasefire." The station had allowed Pasteur Habimana, spokesman for the Hutu-based rebel National Liberation Forces to speak in a programme. The government has several times asked radio stations not to broadcast interviews or statements by rebel leaders.

Other privately-owned stations in Burundi decided the day after Isanganiro’s suspension to refuse to cover the activities of the government and of President Domitien Ndayizeye until Isanganiro was allowed back on the air.

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