Burundi government tightens grip on private media

Saturday October 29 2016

Since last year, more than 50 Burundian journalists are believed to have fled the country, and now the Burundi government has taken additional measures to clamp down on independent media.

The Burundi authorities have demanded that all journalists in the country register afresh.

“All journalists in Burundi are requested to re-register themselves otherwise they will not be legally recognised,” said Gabriel Bihumugani, the vice chairman of the Communication Council.

“The National Communication Council (CNC) decided to suspend one of the programmes of Isanganiro radio because they played a song that doesn’t conform to the ethics of journalism,” said Karenga Ramadhan, the CNC chairman.

CNC’s decision came on October 25, two days after two BBC journalists — Julia Steers from the US and Burundian Yihundimpundu Gildas — were arrested in Cibitoke by the police while taking photos of mass graves. The two were accused of accessing the scene without authorisation, and later released.

The journalists were also accused of trying to destroy or interfere with evidence on the mass graves. The mass graves in Mutakura were shown to the public in March when police accused the opposition and those who participated in protests of killing government supporters.


The Burundi government has been criticised by the international community over the continued clampdown on independent media. It is not the first time for a foreign journalist to be arrested in Burundi as British and French journalists were detained earlier this year, and others were expelled before that.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concern about the deteriorating situation for the media in Burundi after the Burundian Union of Journalists was closed by the Internal Affairs Ministry.

“By suspending the permit of the country’s journalists union, Burundi government has expanded from jailing journalists to trying to silence those who courageously stand up for their imprisoned colleagues,” said CPJ East Africa representative Murithi Mutiga.

Jean Bigirimana, a local journalist has been missing for more than three months and his whereabouts remain unknown.