The director of a Burundi radio station said Friday his outlet is being temporarily taken off air after criticising the government over the killings of dozens of refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
CCIB FM+, which is run by Burundi’s chamber of commerce, had earlier this month aired an editorial lambasting authorities over their response to the deaths of 36 Burundian asylum seekers who were shot during a September 15 demonstration in DRC that also left one soldier dead.
Director and editor Eddy Claude Nininahazwe told AFP the station is being sanctioned for having broadcast, “an editorial that deplored the silence of our government after the massacre of Burundian refugees.”
In a press release, the National Council of Communication called the broadcast “contrary to professional ethics and the law governing the press,” and ordered the station to shut down for three months starting Monday.
Government officials kept mum over the refugee killings, with foreign minister Alain-Aime Nyamitwe making one of the only official comments when he said on Twitter that “explanations are needed”.
Nininahazwe condemned the suspension, saying the station had broken no law.
“We are accused of not having balanced our editorial, which surprises us, because an editorial is our position on a given subject and such commentary is free according to the rules of our profession,” he said.
Burundi was plunged into crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office, which he won the following July.
The violence since then has left between 500 and 2,000 people dead, according to the United Nations and aid agencies, and caused 425,000 Burundians to flee.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Nkurunziza on their list of press freedom “predators” for presiding over the regular arrest of journalists and destruction of independent radio stations. About 100 reporters have fled the country since the unrest started.
Another reporter, Jean Bigirimana has been missing for more than a year.