UN chief ‘regrets’ new Burundi media law which may curb press freedom

6 Jun 2013

UN chief ‘regrets’ new Burundi media law which may curb press freedom

5 June 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed regret that a new media law in Burundi was promulgated with provisions that may have a negative impact on the freedom of the press.

In statement issued by his spokesperson in New York, the Secretary-General emphasized that the right to freedom of expression and pluralistic and free media are essential components of a healthy democracy.

Mr. Ban urged the Burundi Government to ensure that its legal framework is aligned with the country's democratic tradition, "as well as the international human rights standards to which the country holds itself," the statement said.

The promulgation occurred after it was passed by the House of Representatives and Senate among critics from Burundian media sector, civil society and opposition as well as from Burundi's partners due to the risks of restricting freedom of expression and freedom of information, guaranteed in the Burundian Constitution and in regional and international conventions.

In a statement issued in last April after the law was passed by the Senate, the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) urged the authorities to send it back to Parliament for amendment and ensure that the final version is in line with international standards. The office was particularly concerned by some articles of the Law, which force journalists to disclose their sources to authorities when reporting on threats to public order, national security, or "the moral and physical integrity of one or more persons" and suspend the right to publish information in the public interest, giving the state total control to determine what information the public may receive regarding, among other things, national security, public safety, the economy, and anything that may undermine the honor of the state, the head of state, and public officials."

A recent road map towards 2015 elections in Burundi adopted by all political parties and actors at a workshop organized in March 2013 by BNUB, recognizes "the role of the media and civil society in consolidating democratic achievements must be protected." The document stated that they should perform their duties professionally and in accordance with their codes of professional conduct.

(With UN News Centre)