Media Reform: Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi

Protocol II, Chapter l, Article 3:

13. Freedom of expression and of the media shall be guaranteed. The State shall respect freedom of religion, belief, conscience and opinion.

Protocol IV, Chapter ll, Article 13:

Physical reconstruction and political reconstruction must be mutually supportive. Political reconstruction is aimed at making national reconciliation and peaceful coexistence possible, and must be directed towards the establishment of the rule of law. In this context, the following programmes and measures shall be undertaken:

(h) Provision of support for independent media.

Implementation History

2003

Minimum Implementation

Arusha accord had provisions for government support for independent media. However, the accord also prohibits printing and broadcasting media for spreading inflammatory information that would cause ethnic violence or conflict.

In terms of implementing provision of the accord, not much happened between 2000 and 2003 except for the establishment of an independent radio station to promote Hutus and Tutsi reconciliations.1  Journalists were arrested for inciting ethnic hatred.2 As a matter of fact, the government did not support independent media as journalists were constantly targeted.3 In November 2003, government passed a new media law with provisions for fines and criminal penalties for insults directed at the President as well as for writings that are offensive to public or private individuals.4

  • 1. "Burundi: New independent radio station with Hutus, Tutsis working together," BBC Monitoring Africa, August 22, 2001.
  • 2. "Burundi: Police arrest independent news agency director," BBC Monitoring Africa, December 21, 2001; "Burundi arrests editor of Tutsi news agency for inciting hatred," Agence France Presse, July 6, 2003.
  • 3. "Burundi; Journalists subjected to constant attacks," Africa News, February 21, 2003.
  • 4. "2004 County Reports on Human Rights Practices- Burundi," State Department, 2005, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41591.htm.
2004

Minimum Implementation

While security forces harassing journalists declined, government did not promote independent media by controlling the major media. Nevertheless, the passage of Media law in November 2003 did not require journalists to have their articles reviewed before their publications.5

2005

Minimum Implementation

Media reform did not reflect in practice. Government censorship and suspensions of media publication increased in 2005.6

2006

Minimum Implementation

Government still controlled media even though government censorship and suspension of publication were not reported in 2006. Media outlets were required to pay heavy licensing fees.7

2007

Minimum Implementation

Government still controlled media even though government censorship and suspension of publication were not reported in 2007.8

2008

Minimum Implementation

Government continued to control major media outlets but did not censor or force media outlets to suspend operations. Nevertheless, government threatened Africa Public Radio (RPA) with closure for criticizing the government. Also, journalists were arrested several times on charges of defaming and disseminating false information 2007.9

2009

Minimum Implementation

While government continued to control operations of major media outlets and did not use censorship or force media outlets to suspend its operation, journalist were arrested on allegation of spreading false information.10">http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135941.htm.

  • 10. "2009 County Reports on Human Rights Practices- Burundi," State Department, 2010,
2010

Minimum Implementation

Government continued to control media outlets and did not tolerate its criticisms in the media. Journalists were arrested. Burundi had elections in 2010 but political debates were not allowed to broadcast.11">http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/af/154334.htm.

  • 11. "2010 County Reports on Human Rights Practices- Burundi," State Department, 2011,
2011

Minimum Implementation

Notwithstanding government’s commitment to promote independent media, government restriction on media continued.12">http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper...

  • 12. "2011 County Reports on Human Rights Practices- Burundi," State Department, 2012,
2012

Minimum Implementation

Human Rights Watch reported the Burundian government tried to restrict independent media in Burundi in 2012.13 In fact a court in June sentenced a journalist to life imprisonment for "participating in a terrorist attack", which was said politically motivated and criticized by Eastern African Journalists Association among others. It was also reported a reporter was beaten up in June.14

  • 13. "Human Rights; An Overview of Burundi's Human Rights Violations," Africa News, December 30, 2012.
  • 14. "Reporter beaten up by ruling party militia: Burundi radio," Agence France Presse, June 27, 2012.