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REGIONS:

Summonses, threats and harassment part of everyday life for privately-owned media

(RSF/IFEX) - 16 November 2011 - Reporters Without Borders appeals to the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza to call for a halt to the intensified efforts to intimidate privately-owned media organizations in Burundi, which have been subjected to daily summonses and cautions.

The organizations that have been singled out are Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) and the stations Isanganiro and Bonesha FM. Those victimised are managers, news editors and journalists such as Eric Manirakiza, Bob Rugurika, Vincent Nkeshimana, Patrick Mitabaro, Patrick Nduwimana, among others.

At least two ministers are at the forefront of moves against these organizations. Two days ago the interior minister, Edouard Nduwimana, openly accused RPA of "incitement to disobedience and hatred".

The communications minister, Concilie Nibigira, accused TV Renaissance as well as RPA, Bonesha FM and Isanganiro of endangering public order and the peace today by calling on motorists to toot their horns for 15 seconds from 12:20 p.m.

Referring to the investigation into the massacre in Gatumba on 18 September, she added that "anyone who publishes in the media or by other means any part of a pre-trial file will be liable to the application of article 11 of the 2003 law governing the press in Burundi."

The minister concluded by appealing to the press to "avoid any escalation, otherwise you will be required to bear the consequences in accordance with the relevant provisions of the criminal code".

Reporters Without Borders said: "In Burundi, journalists and managers of privately-owned media who try to express themselves freely and investigate sensitive issues are subjected to an appalling campaign of intimidation, symbolised by these continual summonses. The fight against discouragement has become their challenge.

"The frequency of attacks on press freedom, already worrying last year, has increased since the massacre in Gatumba at the end of September and they have become almost daily in recent days.

"In this war of nerves being waged against them by the Burundian authorities, these journalists can count on our support.

"We call on the authorities, as has the head of the European Union delegation in Bujumbura, to allow the media and civil society to fulfil their role.

"We also urge them to ensure complete transparency in the investigation into the Gatumba massacre."
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