Burundi radio station ban lifted as media council chair resigns
Thursday, July 28, 2005
One of Burundi's most popular radio stations, "Radio Publique Africain", has been allowed to re-open.
The move came just a day after RPA resumed broadcasting, having observed an earlier two-day ban, following a disagreement with Burundi's "National Communications Council" (CNC).
The CNC had accused RPA of giving disproportionate coverage to the opposition FDD party, who heavily defeated Ndayizeye's FRODEBU party in last month's national elections. Ndayizeye is due to relinquish power in August.
The radio station's Director, Alexis Sinduhije, had denied the CNC's charges. President Ndayizeye was quoted by BBC monitoring as saying that he had decided to close the radio station to "safeguard the integrity of state institutions."
The closure of RPA was condemned in Burundi, where the radio station, founded in 2001 to promote reconciliation between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, has a wide following. The US-based "Committee to Protect Journalists" led international condemnation of the ban, which Burundi's "Collectif des Professionels des Médias de la Diaspora Burundaise" described as an "abuse of power", setting up an online petition in protest.
"The National Council of Communication judged that RPA has respected council sanctions, but we have also allowed the radio to reopen because a lot of people requested it," CNC chairman Jean Pierre Manda told Reuters, earlier this week.
Manda has now resigned, although he denies that the move is connected with the row over RPA, and cites "personal reasons". The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the CNC is to be reformed, with Radio Publique Africain's Deputy Director sitting on the board in future.
There is some confusion over when the ban was lifted, with Reporters Sans Frontieres and the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that it remained in place until Wednesday this week, while Reuters claims that the ban was lifted on Monday.
RPA Director Alexis Sinduhije has told Reuters that some of the radio station's material has been destroyed by the Burundian police, and suggested that broadcasting will not resume until a damage inventory has been taken.
This week's row is merely the latest manifestation of a long-running personal dispute between President Ndayizeye and the RPA Director Alexis Sinduhije, says journalist Gratien Rukindikiza, writing on the Burundian news website Burundi.news.free.fr. Rukindikiza traces the root of the affair to a telephone call last year in which Ndayizeye tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Sinduhije to endorse his campaign, through Radio Publique Africain, to amend Burundi's constitution. The amendment would have allowed Ndayizeye to seek a second term in power, in contravention of a 2003 peace agreement.
- Wikinews: Press freedom groups condemn two-day radio station ban in Burundi
- Wikinews: Press freedom watchdog 'outraged' by closure of Burundi radio station
- "Burundi radio station back on air after ban" — , July 27, 2005
- "BURUNDI: Radio station resumes broadcasts; media council replaced" — , July 27, 2005
- "Radio station allowed to resume broadcasting" — , July 27, 2005
- Gratien Rukindikiza. "LES DESSOUS DU CONFLIT ENTRE LA RADIO RPA ET LA PRESIDENCE" — , July 23, 2005
- "Burundi police shut down radio station" — , July 23, 2005
- BBC monitoring. "Burundi: President Meets Media Officials Over Radio Closing" — , July 23 2005
- "Burundi elections are teaching Central Africa a lesson – UN official" — , July 22, 2005
- "Police shutter independent radio station" — , July 22, 2005
- "Ex-Hutu rebels win Burundi poll" — , July 6, 2005
- United Nations. "International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi: Final Report" — , October 1996
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