Media legislation

The first legal text regulating the freedom of the press in Burundi is the legislative order of March 1922 approved by the decree in August of the same year. This text was adopted to "counter the propaganda tending to raise the indigenous population against the colonial belgian authority and even against the white population." It lasted long and was repealed by the Press Law of 1976. Burundi was under a one-party rule and media had pledged allegiance to the ideology of the sole ruling party, the Union pour le Progrès National (Union for National Progress - UPRONA):

The Press Law of 2003 allowed journalists not to reveal sources of information to the judicial authority. It also introduced the conscience clause that allows journalists to take the initiative of breaking the contract in the event of an editorial reorientation.

The 2013 law was criticised by all Burundian journalists and the international community. Confused articles were introduced, especially "not to disseminate information that could affect the credit of the state or the national economy." In May 2013 Amnesty International organised a protest against the press law, in front of the Embassy in Brussels. In August 2013, UBJ petitioned for the unconstitutionality of the law. On 7 January, 2014, the Constitutional Court invalidated certain provisions, for example the heavy fines, but overall the law remained liberticidal.

In 2015, another Press Law was promulgated, which is more open to freedom. Article 10 prescribes the journalist's right to access sources of information and gives journalists the right to freely investigate, criticise and comment on any matter. In Article 11, the law emphasises the journalists’ right to protect their personal integrity and their equipment.

With the last constitutional reform promulgated on 7 June, 2018, articles 19 and 31 are in theory even more explicit in regard of press freedom: "The rights and duties proclaimed and guaranteed by internationally ratified international human rights instruments are an integral part of the Constitution" (art 19) and "Freedom of expression is guaranteed, the state respects freedom of religion, thought, conscience and opinion" (art 31). However, hindrances to press freedom persist, especially as the 2018 press law entitles the CNC to unilaterally distribute and withdraw a press card to journalists as it deems right. This means some journalists may not get the press card. Media organisations have tried to be involved in the issuing of the press cards but failed. Therefore all journalists are under the control of the CNC, which is a governmental body.