Burundi’s state broadcaster RTNB is to be headed by a militia leader, Eric Nshimirimana, according to a presidential decree signed on July 3.
His appointment as the director-general of the National Radio Television of Burundi has attracted a lot of criticisms and concerns.
Nshimirimana led Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.
The group was accused of killings and other human rights abuses including raped and robbing of opposition activists.
Those alleged abuses occurred after violence erupted when current President Pierre Nkurunziza run for a third term in 2015.
The government has denied claims of killings and abuses the youth wing is accused of.
Spokesperson for Burundi’s government Willy Nyamitwe said “Imbonerakure is not a gang of rapists.”
An opposition leader, Léonce Ngendakumana told Reuters that the appointment signal President Nkurunziza’s intentions to seek another term in office.
President Nkurunziza has however said he is not seeking re-election next year when elections are held.
Nkurunziza to return?
“The RTNB remains the only media in Burundi with countrywide coverage. Appointing the chairman of the Imbonerakure which has close ties with the army, the police or the intelligence service is not for free,” Ngendakumana told Reuters.
“The current president is seeking support of the youth league by thanking them and in order to totally control the country’s very important media outlet, the RTNB, less than a year before the elections.”
According to Human Rights Watch Nshimirimana’s appointment was “a blow to all victims of abuse perpetrated by the Imbonerakure, as well as freedom of the press in Burundi”.
BBC quotes Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director of Human Rights Watch as saying that “these abuses, including killings, arrests, intimidation and extortion, continue today”.
“Nshimirimana should be held accountable for what happened under his watch, instead of rewarded with the leadership of one of the country’s last remaining media outlets,” Mr Mudge said.