Burundi government "playing with fire" - CPJ
Nairobi - The head of a private radio station in Burundi has gone into hiding after intimidation from a government increasingly accused of suppressing freedom of expression, an international media watchdog has said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Alexis Sinduhije, who runs Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), was on the run after a minister linked his station to one in neighbouring Rwanda notorious for inciting the genocide in 1994.
"The government of Burundi is playing with fire by invoking the spectre of genocide to intimidate a highly respected radio station whose programmes have helped the nation heal its ethnic divisions," said the Committee's executive director Joel Simon.
"We call on the government to publicly express its support for RPA, guarantee the safety of its employees, and refrain from making inflammatory statements," he added.
The Committee quoted Burundi's Communications Minister Ramadhani Karenga as saying Sinduhije's station was "like RTLM".
That was a reference to Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines which broadcast exhortations to exterminate "cockroaches" prior to the slaughter of 800 000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Sinduhije won the Committee to Protect Journalist's (CPJ) press freedom award in 2004.
"He has now gone into hiding for the second time in less than two months, fearing for his safety," the group said.
"CPJ sources in Bujumbura confirmed that RPA had been subject to intimidation and harassment, and that government officials had accused the station of working for the opposition."
Officials in President Pierre Nkurunziza's government were not immediately available for comment.
Nkurunziza won elections a year ago at the culmination of a UN-backed peace process intended to put an end to ethnic strife that killed some 300 000 people since 1993.
Initially hailed as an African success story, his administration is now under fire from critics over a crackdown on political opponents, activists and journalists.
Burundi, human rights, Current Affairs, Politics, Africa