Burundi’s National Communication Council announced on May 4 that it would suspend Voice of America’s FM programs along with BBC broadcasts for six months, effective May 7.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the media regulator accused both broadcasters of breaching the country’s media laws and professional ethics.
The VOA says it’s content is still available via shortwave and the internet but that FM broadcasts play an essential role in this small central African country, which is in the midst of a political and human rights crisis.
“They have come to rely on the VOA for unbiased and uncensored news and information, and, given the country’s worsening political and humanitarian crises, that need is more urgent now than ever,” said BBG CEO John F. Lansing, in a statement.
“The BBG will continue to support the people of Burundi by providing reliable and accurate programming. I urge President Pierre Nkurunziza to reverse this decision to help ensure security, prevent unrest and protect the population,” he said.
The BBC told CPJ in an emailed statement that it was “disappointed by the government action and said it would respond appropriately against any broadcast found to be falling short of strict editorial guidelines.”
The announcement of the suspension came just days before a constitutional referendum, which is slated for May 17 and could change presidential term limits, extending Nkurunziza’s power until 2034.