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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Radio crackdown in Burundi

President Domitien Ndayizeye
Mr Ndayizeye's government says the radio incited violence

The authorities in Burundi have ordered the closure of a second private radio station after journalists violated a ban on interviewing rebel officials.

The closure was ordered by Information Minister Albert Mbonerane against African Public Radio [RPA] on Tuesday following a phone-in programme with a rebel spokesperson for the National Liberation Forces (FNL), who have refused to hold talks with the transitional government.

He was discussing the failure of the peace talks to end the country's decade-long civil war.

Mr Mbonerane said that RPA had "incited the population to violence" by broadcasting the rebel spokesmen's reaction.


"Radio Publique Africaine has acted in bad faith thus their banning by interviewing the spokesman of Agathon Rwasa's Palipehutu-FNL, a man who is against Burundi and who until now has refused to negotiate with the government," the statement said.

The ban comes only days after the government closed another station, Radio Isanganiro, after it broadcast interviews with rebel officials.

Following the closure of Isanganiro, on Saturday, RPA and another private station, Bonesha FM imposed a news blackout to express their solidarity.

And instead of broadcasting the usual news bulletin at 1600 and 1630 GMT, they aired special reports on the closure and initiated interactive programmes to gauge people's views on the ban.

Correspondents say many Burundians are puzzled by Mr Mbonerane's action, because as a rebel in Germany before the transition period, his interviews were broadcast by private radio stations.

Burundi has about seven private local radio stations.

The ban, however, has not been extended to international radios broadcasting to Burundi, such as the BBC.

Alexis Sinduhije, the RPA manager has called on journalists to defend their own freedom and appealed to the public for support.

"The people themselves who are the beneficiaries of this unbiased information must help the journalists in this fight for freedom and true democracy," he said.

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