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Startseite Urgent Actions 2013 04 Journalists at risk from restrictive law
UA 100/13
Abgeschlossen am 24. April 2013

Journalists at risk from restrictive law

AI-Index: AFR 16/001/2013

A draft press law which would severely limit the activities of journalists is soon to be debated by the Burundian Senate. It could make journalists criminally liable for carrying out their work, introduce new press-related crimes and exorbitant fines for those who violate its provisions. Freedom of expression is under threat in Burundi.

Journalists in Burundi have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest over recent years. Yet despite this, Burundi still has a vibrant media which serves as an important source of information on a range of issues important to Burundians, including allegations of human rights abuses and corruption. Journalists operate throughout the country and carry out sensitive investigations, sometimes putting themselves in danger.

The draft law on the press, in its current form, would place undue restrictions on the work of journalists, limiting Burundians’ freedom to seek and impart information and ideas. The draft law was passed by the National Assembly on 3 April 2013. Once passed by the Senate, it becomes law after it has been signed by the President.

Certain provisions in the draft law are especially restrictive and the law would violate the right to freedom of expression, preventing Burundian journalists from conducting their legitimate work. Articles 17, 18 and 19 create numerous new requirements for journalists to follow in the course of their work. Failure to do so can result in steep fines. Many of these requirements are overly broad and may therefore be used to prevent the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Article 19 restricts the right to report on anything that relates to state and public security, information that threatens the national economy, or insulting the President (outrages et injures à l’endroit du Chef de l’Etat).

Additional Information

A draft of the press law includes new provisions introducing circumstances in which journalists must disclose sources.
Fines may be as high as 8,000,000 Burundian francs (approximately US $5,000), which media outlets would be unable to afford.
In Burundi, the ruling party, the National Council for Defence of Democracy-Forces for Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), governs without any effective opposition engagement, following the withdrawal of opposition parties from the 2010 elections. Burundian journalists report harassment and intimidation by the authorities because of their work.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Burundian Constitution all set out recognized standards of freedom of expression.

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