Burundi’s National Media Council has suspended FM radio broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Voice of America (VOA), saying the foreign media houses were peddling lies in their coverage of the country.
The media council chairman, Nestor Bankumukunzi said BBC and VOA had violated principles of balanced journalism and verification of information provided by sources.
BBC was faulted for airing a television documentary alleging security services were running a string of secret torture chambers to crush opposition’s spirit.
Bujumbura dismissed the story as false.
Bankumukunzi was quoted as saying BBC had already recognized their mistake but later went ahead to broadcast a film whose content he said was “false, slanderous and full of fabrications”.
He also indicated that the documentary violated laws that govern the media in Burundi.
Burundi authorities also suspended VOA on grounds that the broadcaster worked with investigative radio journalist Patrick Nduwimana, who Bujumbura accuses of complicity in the failed coup in May 2015.
On its part, BBC condemned the move, saying the “unwarranted decision of the Burundi government to ban the BBC and suspend indefinitely the Voice of America strikes a huge blow against media freedom, and we strongly condemn it.”
He added: “We believe it’s vital for people around the world to have access to impartial, accurate and independent journalism including the 1.3 million people in Burundi who rely on BBC for news.”
However, Willy Nyamitwe, the Senior Advisor to President Pierre Nkurunziza dismissed claims that the BBC report was a big investigative piece.
“… it was not a “critical investigation” but a pack of lies on Burundi,’” said Nyamitwe, who a few years ago survived an assassination attempt.
He said the BBC “should be ashamed for not being able to foster quality journalism.”