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 Full text 
Thursday, 16 January 2020 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Burundi, notably the freedom of expression

  Phil Bennion (Renew). – Madam President, the people of Burundi continue to suffer from human rights abuses. The United Nations report from September last year showed that the police, the intelligence services and even the youth wing of the governing party have been responsible for the killings, the disappearances and the arbitrary arrests of actual or alleged opposition politicians and their families.

One of the first steps to holding human rights abusers to account is freedom of expression, but this too has come under attack in Burundi. The BBC had its licence revoked by the Burundian authorities, which also banned its citizens from providing information to the BBC. Even children are not safe from prosecution. Three schoolgirls were arrested last year for allegedly doodling on the President’s image in their school books. While they were later released, the government warned that future cases would be punished.

More recently, the police arrested four journalists from a Burundian media organisation – and their driver. They are potentially facing 15—year prison terms for just pursuing their profession. We must press the Burundian Government to release these journalists, cease the persecution of independent media and opposition politicians and reverse their suppression of freedom of expression.

Burundi is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which the protection of freedom of expression is enshrined. This is critical to ensure that the upcoming presidential elections are free and fair, which is the best route to a peaceful and genuinely democratic society.

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