Bujumbura - Burundi lawmakers have approved a draft media
law that forces journalists to reveal sources, threatens reporters with
financial penalties and bans news about the local currency.
Lawmakers say it will protect Burundi leaders and citizens
but local media call it an attack on press freedom in a central African nation
recovering from more than a decade of civil war.
Although the media operate with some freedom in landlocked
Burundi, several journalists have been jailed and independent outlets
threatened with closure in the last few years.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said last year the
government was trying to restrict efforts by independent media and civil
society to criticise violence blamed on the state.
Under the bill passed by the national assembly late on
Wednesday, journalists, newspapers or radio businesses will be liable to pay
fines from $2 000 and $6 000 for press offences.
It also bans the media from publishing news about national
defence, public safety, state security and the local currency, which lost 14.3%
against the dollar in 2012 and is down 4% in 2013.
"This bill was approved by the majority of members of
parliament, because we believe it guarantees the freedom of expression for
journalists, but it also protects the rights of citizens and country's
leaders," said Pie Ntavyohanyuma, speaker of the national assembly.
Burundi's journalists union (UBJ) said the bill was an
unconstitutional attack on press freedom.
"This bill denies the freedom of expression and media,
it is against the country's constitution and other international laws such as
the universal declaration of human rights," said Alexandre Niyungeko, the
The bill has to be approved by the senate before President
Pierre Nkurunziza can sign it into law.