On behalf of the African Liberal Network (ALN), I will today write to Faith Pansy Tlakula, the special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and ask her to investigate the new media law passed by Burundi’s National Assembly in April and promulgated earlier this week by President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The President has promulgated the bill into law despite serious concerns being raised internationally about provisions in the bill that will severely restrict journalists’ ability to report freely on matters in Burundi through the imposition of heavy fines and jail sentences. The bill also weakens protection for sources and requires all journalists to have a university degree regardless of their work experience.
The media bill stands in direct contravention to the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Burundi is a signatory, that commits countries to uphold freedom of information and expression.
In my letter to the special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, I will ask her to investigate the provisions of the Burundian media bill that violate the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and make appropriate recommendations to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights regarding further sanctions.
The key mandate of the special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information is to analyse national media legislation within Member States, monitor their compliance with freedom of expression and access to information standards, undertake fact-finding missions to Member States to investigate reports of systemic violations of the right to freedom of expression and denial of access to information and make appropriate recommendations and public interventions.
The rights to freedom of information and expression, as well as an independent and diverse media, are central to the realisation of real democracy. Without these rights democracy in Burundi is a farce. In line with the Liberal Manifesto for Africa drafted and adopted by the ALN, we will, along with our Burundian member party, the Alliance Démocratique pour le Renouveau (ADR), champion the rights to freedom of expression in Burundi until such time as they are delivered in both form and substance.
Olivier Kamitatu Etsu
Africa Liberal Network President
+24 381 268 1774
Africa Liberal Network Coordinator
+27 72 232 0127