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Burundi - Media law's threat to freedom of information

Source: Reporters Without Borders - Tue, 7 May 2013 09:23 GMT
Author: Reporters Without Borders
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter to President Pierre Nkurunziza today voicing concern about freedom of information in Burundi and asking him not to promulgate a media law that has been passed by the country's parliament.

The text of the letter follows:

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Dear President Nkurunziza,

In the wake of World Press Freedom Day just three days ago, Reporters Without Borders urges not to promulgate the media law that parliament passed last month.

Approved by the national assembly at the start of April and by the senate on 19 April, the proposed law is very controversial and comes at a difficult time for the Burundian media, a time exacerbated by Hassan Ruvakuki's long detention and several serious physical attacks on journalists.

You should not interpret the many objections that have been voiced by the media and international bodies as a sign of hostility towards your government's actions in general. They just reflect a legitimate concern.

By restricting your subjects' accessibility to journalists and by drastically increasing the jail terms and fines for media offences, the proposed law would considerably limit investigative reporting and would probably increase self-censorship.

With two years to go until the next national elections, its promulgation would have disastrous consequences for pluralism, transparency and democracy in general in Burundi.

In this grave and decisive period, we therefore count on your goodwill.

By preventing this law from taking effect, you will demonstrate your commitment to freedom of information. But if you promulgate it, you will send an extremely negative signal to your fellow citizens, the international community and all of Burundi's partners.

Our organization is convinced that you will display the required vision and allow the media to fully play their proper role, one that is so necessary for the vitality of democracies.

I thank you in advance for the attention you give to our request.

Sincerely,

Christophe DeloireReporters Without Borders secretary-general

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