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Journalists under threat from mounting violence, political unrest

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about growing threats to the safety of journalists in Burundi in the run-up to the 28 June 2010 presidential election. Several incidents directly affecting Burundian journalists and media have been reported recently.

"These abuses are particularly serious in a country that was still enjoying a degree of calm a few months ago," Reporters Without Borders said. "Since the municipal elections on 24 May, as a result of which 13 political parties withdrew from the presidential elections, journalists have been under threat from violence and political manipulation. We urge the authorities to do everything possible to guarantee their physical safety."

As Emmanuel Ndayishimiye of Radio Publique Africaine was returning home on the evening of 7 June, he was attacked and hit with bricks by police officers because of a report three months ago that a Muslim leader in the northern province of Ngozi had been badly beaten by policemen.

"The police officers asked me why I broadcast that report," he told Reporters Without Borders. "I replied that I was a journalist and I was just doing my job. They then started hitting me in the knees and stomach. I had to be hospitalised."

Ndayishimiye added: "It is not clear whether it will be possible to work amid all this tension. I am really afraid. I filed a complaint but I do not know whether it will result in those responsible being punished."

Several organisations that represent news media and journalists sent a joint letter to the National Council for Communication (CNC), the media regulatory body, on 8 June accusing Rema FM, a privately-owned radio station that supports the government, of manipulating the news, promoting hatred and stigmatising certain politicians, mainly opposition ones.

Chiding the CNC for its failure to react, the letter said the regulatory body should now move very quickly to prevent Rema FM from continuing to broadcast information that could jeopardise social peace in Burundi.

Reporters Without Borders is also saddened to learn that Aurore Citetegetse, a technician employed by Bonesha FM, was killed by a stray bullet as she was returning home on 13 June. She was hit in the head by one of the shots that were fired wildly by armed robbers holding up a service station.
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