Originally posted on UN News Centre on November 25, 2014—
“The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders expressed regret today that defenders in Burundi are deemed to be political opponents, saying that in reality they are activists working to promote and protect human rights and civil liberties.
In a press release issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the expert, Michel Forst, emphasized that threats and defamation campaigns by certain media outlets weigh on human rights defenders, who also report a high number of cases of physical threats, anonymous phone calls, assaults, arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment.
“I was very struck by the incredible vitality and professionalism of civil society in Burundi despite the difficult environment in which they work,” Mr. Forst said.
“They face serious obstacles that can amount to violations of their rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as their legitimate right to promote and protect human rights,” he added.
The Special Rapporteur stressed that while Burundi is fortunate to have a “dynamic” civil society and a “bold and free” press, the country’s public authorities attempt to restrict their freedom of expression by accusing them of being opposition actors when they report on events or testimonies questioning State institutions.
He said he shared his concerns with the Government regarding provisions of the law on the press that are contrary to international obligations. In particular, he noted the requirement that journalists reveal their sources, which would limit effective enjoyment of freedom of expression.”
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