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Burundi: Stop Attacking Journalists!

My name is Eric Manirakiza. I am the Managing Director of African Public Radio and Correspondent for Voice of America, Burundi, and I need your help.  The government in Burundi has systematically been trying to silence media in Burundi by threatening, jailing, and attacking them.  Recently, the Burundian Parliament and Senate both overwhelmingly passed a bill which proposes to legitimately silence them by making it a crime to report on things like terrorism and the economy, requiring that sources be revealed, a minimum level of education for journalists, and imposing severe fines for violations.

Since 2010, the media has uncovered extensive government corruption and human rights violations in my country.  In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported at least 160 political assassinations, uncovered largely by the local independent media.  In response, the government has undertaken extreme measures to silence the media, including jailing journalists for as long as 10 months, trying them for treason and terrorism, threatening to close media outlets, and threatening to kill them and their families.  My family and I have received numerous death threats, and at times had to live in exile.  Since starting this petition, one of my journalists was shot by police, and another journalists was attacked in his home and had his press recordings stolen.

Like Rwanda, Burundi has suffered from decades of fighting between the Hutus and Tutsis.  The international community, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, played a key role in ending the long civil war in Burundi.  As part of the brokered peace agreement, freedom of expression was to be guaranteed by the Burundian Constitution, and international treaties guaranteeing basic human rights, including free expression, were to be observed. 

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists have all condemned this law.  It is an attack on freedom of expression, and any attack on freedom of expression is a direct attack on democracy.  Unless we ensure that the media in Burundi remains independent and maintains the right to report freely, the government will continue to act with impunity, threatening the democracy we have fought so hard for.

One way that we can make a difference is for the international community to place pressure on the Burundian President not to sign the new bill into law.  The international community has invested heavily in the rebuilding of Burundi.  In fact, the majority of the Burundian government's budget comes from foreign aid.  The international community -- including the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the World Bank, and more -- needs to take a stand and tell the President of Burundi that it must ensure press freedoms if it wishes to continue to receive the international aid that it depends on.

Please take a minute and demand freedom of the press in Burundi!

This petition was delivered to:
  • United States Secretary of State
    John Kerry
  • Representative
    Karen Bass
  • Representative
    Randy Weber
  • Senator
    Tom Udall
  • Representative
    Ami Bera
  • Representative
    Ed Royce
  • Senator
    Jeanne Shaheen
  • Senator
    Christopher Coons
  • Senator
    Rand Paul
  • Representative
    Tom Marino
  • Representative
    David Cicilline
  • Representative
    Steve Stockman
  • Senator
    John Barrasso
  • Senator
    Ben Cardin
  • European Union
  • Embassy of Burundi in the United States
  • African Union
  • World Bank
  • International Monetary Fund
  • United Nations
  • US Embassy in Burundi
  • Representative
    Mark Meadows
  • Senator
    John McCain
  • Senator
    Jeff Flake
  • Senator
    Dick Durbin
  • Secretary of State
    John Kerry


African Public Radio started this petition with a single signature, and now has 256 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.