Burundi’s Press Law, which received widespread international criticism when it was adopted including by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, only allows for approved individuals to become ‘journalists’ and outlaws basic investigative journalism. It is directed at broadcast as well as print journalism and places strict prohibitions on what can be published, making it impossible for the media to expose corruption or wrongdoing and hold those in power to account.
The petition lodged by MLDI for the Burundi Journalists Union argues that these restrictions violate the East African CommunityTreaty, which creates a regional union of States founded on shared values of democracy and which seeks to enhance trade. The East African Court of Justice, seated in Arusha, has been requested to rule that the Press Law violates Burundi’s obligations under the Treaty and to strike out the Law’s most egregious provisions.
The Burundian Journalists’ Union is represented before the Court by a team of lawyers including Burundian lawyers Armel Niyongere and Francois Nyamoya as well as international human rights lawyers, John Jones QC and professor Max du Plessis. The team is led by Nani Jansen, MLDI’s senior legal counsel.
“This law is a dramatic setback for the press in Burundi”, said Nani Jansen. “A free press is the watchdog of democracy and, under the current law, the press is unable to fulfil this important role. We hope the Court will hold Burundi to its obligations under the Treaty to guarantee the principles of democracy and the rule of law.”
MLDI is grateful to John Jones QC and Professor Max du Plessis for contributing their time pro bono, and also acknowledges the assistance of Nadia Galinier in preparing the Application to the Court.
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For over two decades journalist Claudia Duque was subjected to a prolonged campaign of psychological torture at the hands of the now-defunct Colombian secret police, the Department of Security (DAS). Since 2001, Duque faced relentless persecution — from kidnapping to the ceaseless invasion of her privacy, encompassing illegal surveillance of phone calls, emails, and bank […]
Lilian Olivia Orero is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Award-winning writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. Lilian Olivia participated in our women-only litigation surgeries as part of our EWDRA project. Here she gave a presentation on strategies that journalists in sub-Saharan Africa can use to help them stay safe online amidst ever […]