Index 2024
108/ 180
Score : 51.78
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
114/ 180
Score : 52.14
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

Despite some favourable signals sent by President Evariste Ndayishimiye, the environment continues to be very hostile for journalists in Burundi, where a journalist was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2023 for spurious accusations of “an attack against the internal security of the national territory”.

Media landscape

Burundi's media landscape was once regarded as one of the most dynamic in the Great Lakes region, but it has been considerably impoverished since the failed coup attempt in 2015 and the ensuing crisis. Several radio stations were destroyed or forced into exile, particularly to Rwanda. Radio-Télé IsanganiroBonesha FM and the Iwacu press group are among the most popular independent media outlets. Radio Rema FM and the national radio and TV broadcaster RTNB also enjoy a large audience although they are dedicated to defending and promoting the government. 

Political context

After President Pierre Nkurunziza’s death in 2020, his successor, Gen. Ndayishimiye, promised to normalise relations with the media but that promise has been slow to materialise. The CNDD-FDD, the ruling party since 2005, is a party-state that does not tolerate dissent. The media are closely monitored to the point that, in some provinces, journalists must have authorisation or be accompanied by a state media journalist to be able to cover certain subjects. The media are policed by the National Communication Council (CNC), whose members are appointed by the president and which is completely subservient to the government.

Legal framework

While Burundi’s constitution and press law guarantee freedom of expression, the existing legal framework provides no concrete protection for the freedom to report the news. The authorities finally stopped blocking access to the Iwacu news website in December 2022, after five years. In 2020, four Iwacu journalists who had spent more than a year in prison after being arrested on their way to cover a story were released, not following a trial, but after a presidential pardon. At the beginning of 2023, a woman journalist accused of “undermining the integrity of the national territory” was sentenced to ten years in prison, after an unfair trial based on unfounded accusation. Lacking care and detained in appalling conditions, her health has deteriorated since her imprisonment. 

Economic context

Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries and its advertising market is very limited. It is therefore very difficult for a media outlet to survive without support from the government or from international NGOs or other entities.

Sociocultural context

Thanks to the government’s methods, fear is deeply entrenched both in Burundian society as a whole and within media outlets, where self-censorship is the norm. When out reporting, journalists are often greeted by a "welcome committee", a group of people selected by the authorities who are not free to say what they think. The government sees journalists as patriots in need of training. Those who resist are treated as enemies of the nation. 


Burundian journalists live in fear of being threatened, attacked or arrested. Repression can come from the authorities or from ruling party activists, such as the very violent Imbonerakure youth militia, who resort to both beatings and extortion to silence journalists. In 2021, the president publicly attacked two Burundian journalists working abroad, whom he accused of destroying the country. Those responsible for violence against journalists enjoy total impunity. Seven years after Iwacu reporter Jean Bigirimana’s disappearance, and despite a change of government in 2020, the authorities still show no interest in shedding light on the case, which could implicate the authorities in power at that time.