A draft press law in Burundi has been met with scorn by local journalists who have described the draft as draconian as it would force them to reveal their sources.
Head of Burundi’s association of radio stations, Vincent Nkeshimana said: “This is a law... which is clearly intended to kill the press, because if it is passed by the national assembly, it will compel journalists to reveal their sources."
The law, which is currently being considered by a parliamentary committee, would enable governments to enforce heavy fines, among other new powers.
In protest to its possible adoption, six private and two public radio stations have pooled their signals to produce a shared broadcast denouncing the bill.
Government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba argued that the aim of the bill is to "decriminalise press offences,” but the suggestion has been rejected by critics.
Relations between the media and government in Burundi have been strained for some time now, and the draft bill is unlikely to see an improvement in the situation.
Abusing power to silence journalists
The government in Burundi has been criticised for treating the media with harsh rules and abusing their power to silence dissenting voices.
Hassan Ruvakuki will next month appeal a life sentence he was handed in June after being accused of complicity with a terrorist group. The reporter has insisted that he was merely speaking to a member of the group as part of an assignment, but he was sentenced for planning terrorist attacks.
Journalists were shocked by the decision to sentence Ruvakuki, and his case has been highlighted as a significant stumbling block to the development of relations between the media and government authorities.
Other journalists have been physically assaulted throughout the country, prompting media watchdogs such as Reporters Without Borders to voice their concerns about the way the government in Burundi deals with journalists.
RSF placed Burundi at number 130 of 179 on their latest Press Freedom Index.
Source: DCMF, AFP