Authorities in Bujumbura are threatening to file a complaint against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for allegedly undermining Burundi’s security by airing a report on secret executions.
By Joël Nsabiye
On Thursday, December 13, 2018, a high-powered Burundian government delegation met with ambassadors and heads of consular missions accredited to Bujumbura to protest that the BBC exposé, which reportedly takes viewers ‘Inside Burundi’s Killing Machine’, was palpably wrong.
After the meeting, the diplomats were taken on the ground to visit one of the houses mentioned in the exposé, which is located in Kinindo area, Mukaza Commune, southwest of the capital Bujumbura.
Justice minister Aimée Laurentine Kanyana accuses the BBC of having broadcast an investigative story that contains false statements according to which, since 2016 until the beginning of December 2018, the Burundian intelligence services have continued to torture and kill political opponents.
“This is a defamatory act against the government, the population and intelligence agents and therefore the authors of this report must be brought to justice,” she told the press in Bujumbura on Thursday.
Kanyana also complained that the BBC report will have a devastating effect on international relations and the country’s economy. She fears that following the airing of the exposé, foreign investors will be reluctant invest in Burundi. The minister complained the BBC has tarnished the image of Burundi and that government must now take steps to rehabilitate it.
The video in question is a series of testimonies exposing the atrocities that have been committed against political opponents after the riots of 2015. One of the witnesses who claims to be a former intelligence agent says: “Some people think that the country is safe now, I want to tell you this: This brief respite is for them the best time to carry out the killings without anyone noticing it.”
The BBC has been suspended from operating in Burundi since May 2018. The government’s current protest likely means that the broadcaster’s license to operate in Burundi will not be renewed any time soon. In May, the National Council of Communication (CNC) had accused the BBC of serious violations of the law governing the press and professional ethics in Burundi and suspended the FM broadcasts of the British broadcaster for six months.
Today, eight months after the suspension, the hope of seeing the BBC reopen its programs is crumbling. During Tuesday’s media outing, Burundian justice minister said the report confirms the BBC’s intent to harm Burundian interests.
Intahe has asked the BBC for a response and will update this story as soon as we receive one.