Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza on Tuesday approved a controversial media law that infringes on press freedoms, much to the dismay of media watchdogs and rights groups.
“His excellency has just promulgated the media law,” presidential spokesman Leonidas Hatungimana told AFP.
Eric Manirakiza, director of a local private radio station African Public Radio (RPA) said the news was a “dark day for press freedom”.
“But we will continue to fight,” he said. “We will not accept what amounts to a very serious step backwards for democracy in Burundi,” he told AFP.
Reporters Without Borders also said in a statement that the new law marks a “black day for freedom of information in Burundi.”
“The country has gone backwards more than 20 years,” it added.
Introduced by the ruling CNDD-FDD, which has more than 80% of the seats in the lower house of parliament, the law was adopted by the National Assembly on April 29 and then sent to Nkurunziza for approval.
The law weakens the protection of sources, restricts journalists’ ability to do investigative reporting and requires all journalists to have a university degree regardless of experience.
It also bans the dissemination of “information or documents” pertaining to defence issues or information considered as enemy propaganda or liable to hurt Burundi’s economy.
The legislation has been criticised by all of the country’s political parties apart from the ruling CNDD-FDD.