Defamation Laws In Burundi

Although the Burundi Constitution provides for freedom of expression, this right is rarely respected in practice. Much of the current media legislation is vague and not favorable for a free press. For instance, the 1997 Press Law forbids the dissemination of “information inciting civil disobedience or serving as propaganda for enemies of the Burundian nation during a time of war.” In addition, the 2003 Media Law provides prison terms of up to five years for the dissemination of information which insults the president or is defamatory toward other individuals. In 2006, legislation was proposed that would more accurately define the responsibilities and limitations of journalists; however, criminal prosecutions for libel and defamation continue to be used by the authorities to deter critical journalism.

The government dominates Burundi’s media industry. It owns Le Renouveau, the only daily newspaper, as well as the public television and radio broadcasters, National Radio and Television of Burundi.

Owing to economic and infrastructural limitations, only 2.1 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2010. There are no apparent government restrictions on internet access, although the National Communications Council bars websites from “posting documents or other statements by political organizations that disseminate hate or violence,” while the government appears to be equally intolerant of criticism that appears online.