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Burundi22 September 2003

Ban on two independent radio stations lifted

The radio station Isanganiro resumed broadcasting on 19 September, five days after it was closed by the government. It had appealed to the National Communications Council, which on 18 September reduced its suspension from seven days to five.

Another station, Radio publique africaine (RPA), returned to the air on 20 September after the minister of communications cancelled his 16 September decision to shut down the station indefinitely.

Both radios had been suspended for giving air time to the rebel National Liberation Forces spokesman, Pasteur Habimana.


Government bans another independent radio station

Reporters Without Borders protested today at the banning of a second Burundian radio station in the space of three days and called on the government to immediately allow them to return to the air.

The privately-owned Radio publique africaine (RPA) was suspended indefinitely on 16 September for broadcasting what the authorities said was "propaganda for enemies of the country."

"We wonder how far the government is going in its efforts to suppress news of rebel activity," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to communications minister Albert Mbonerane, calling on him to end the ban against the station and another, Isanganiro, suspended for a week on 13 September for the same reason. "Burundians must be allowed to have diversity of news," he said.

On 16 September, RPA interviewed Pasteur Habimana, spokesman for the Hutu-based rebel National Liberation Forces, who talked about the failure of recent peace negotiations in Burundi. A few hours later, the minister ordered the station off the air, accusing it of broadcasting material that was "insulting to the government" and deliberately violating the ban on putting out statements by the rebels.

The day after Isanganiro was suspended, other independent radio stations in Burundi said they would refuse to cover the activities of the government and of President Domitien Ndayizeye until it was allowed back on the air.

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