Burundi interior ministry has this week indefinitely suspended the operating permits of five organisations, including the Burundian Union of Journalists (UBJ), and banned an additional five leading civil society groups outright, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Wednesday.
The same week, US freelance reporter Julia Steers was arrested on duty in the capital Bujumbura alongside her Burundian co-worker Gildas Yihundimpundu, a BBC freelancer, and their driver Pascal Sinahagera.
Acts such as these, including the disappearance of journalist Jean Bigirimana since July 22 and the detention since October 2 of reporter Salvador Nahimana, are tangible proofs that incidences of media freedom violations are on the rise in Burundi.
“By suspending the permit of the country’s journalists’ union, Burundi’s government has expanded from jailing journalists to trying to silence those who courageously stand up for their imprisoned colleagues,” CPJ East Africa representative Murithi Mutiga said in a statement posted this week on the media watchdog’s website.
“We call on Burundian authorities to release all journalists behind bars for their work, and to allow the Burundian Union of Journalists’ to operate freely.”
The impoverished tiny East African nation has been in turmoil since last year, after President Pierre Nkurunziza was unconstitutionally re-elected for a third term in office.
The United Nations says more than 500 people have been killed and over 30 000 have been forced into exile, and thousands more remind behind bars.
The country’s Parliament has since voted massively to quit the International Criminal Court (ICC), after the Hague-based tribunal said it would open an investigation for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Photo: Burundi in turmoil. credit: RFI