Authorities in the East African nation of Burundi has suspended operations by the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC and Voice of America, VoA.

The suspension which was relayed to the two media organisations via a statement on Friday is coming two weeks before a referendum that could extend the president’s rule for at least a decade.

Burundi’s National Communication Council said it had suspended the international media organisations for six months, accusing them of breaching press laws and unprofessional conduct.

The regulator said in a statement the BBC had invited a Burundi national on its programme whose remarks were “inappropriate, exaggerated, non-verified, damaging the reputation of the head of state, to ethnic hatred, to political conflict and civil disobedience.”

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VOA was suspended for broadcasting on a frequency banned by the regulator, according to the statement.

French broadcaster, Radio France International and the local station Isanganiro were also cited in the statement and warned about employing more rigorous verification of sources.

VOA said it was dismayed by the ban but that its content will continue to be available in Kirundi and Kinyarwanda via shortwave channels, on the Internet and on FM transmitters located in neighbouring countries.

“Our audience members count on VOA to provide factual, unbiased and objective coverage of current events, so this ban deprives the citizens of Burundi of a trusted news source during a critical time in that country,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said in a statement.

The BBC has yet to comment.

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