At least 100 journalists have fled Burundi following the violence that gripped the tiny central African country when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for presidency in April this year.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Burundi Union of Journalists, the media personalities who fled said they had been threatened, feared persecution and lack of employment after the media houses they worked for were shut down by authorities or set on fire during protests.
Nkurunziza was recently sworn in to serve his third term, but his inauguration was a lowly-covered event because, according to CPJ, most media houses in Burundi have been forced to close.
‘Since April 26, when Burundians took to the streets to protest President Pierre Nkurunziza’s unconstitutional bid for a third term, CPJ has documented a series of attacks on journalists. The crackdown intensified after an attempted military coup on May 13. Media outlets and radio stations were attacked and in some cases burned to the ground, and many of the journalists employed at them have been harassed and threatened’, the CPJ release states.
The media lobby group cites the case of Voice of America Correspondent Diane Nininahazwe, whose home was involved in a grenade attack on June 24, just a day after she received threatening text messages.
The attack at Nininahazwe’s house happened when she had just returned from Gihanga, north of Bujumbura, where she had been reporting on abductions and according to CPJ, she was too frightened to report the incident to police and has been in hiding ever since.
‘… grenade was thrown through the window of Voice of America correspondent Diane Nininahazwe’s home. It was one of three cases CPJ has documented in recent months where grenades were thrown into the homes of journalists in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. Fortunately, there have been no fatalities, but there have also been no arrests,’ the release adds.
Meanwhile, the CPJ says Burundi authorities recently closed down four leading privately-owned radio stations, rendering many journalists jobless.