After being blocked for five years, Burundian news site is accessible again
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the Burundian government’s decision to stop blocking online access to Iwacu, the country’s leading independent news website, after five years. Freedom of information is finally starting to revive in Burundi, says RSF, urging its president to do more to foster media pluralism.
“The unblocking of this site is more than a symbol, it is a real step forward for freedom of the press in Burundi. The end of Iwacu’s censorship must signal a new era for media freedom in Burundi and must herald the return of free and independent journalism. We urge President Evariste Ndayishimiye to continue his efforts to create an open and free media environment, one in which the media are free to perform their democratic function.”
The Burundian media underwent one of the most difficult periods in their history after a coup attempt in 2015. Journalists were persecuted and either forced to flee the country or were hauled before courts and given long, and completely unjustified prison sentences. Several media outlets were even torched. Violations of the rights to free speech and press freedom became routine.
No exception was made for Iwacu, the country’s most widely read news outlet. When the government began blocking the website in 2017, Iwacu received immediate support from RSF, which created several mirror sites as part of its Operation Collateral Freedom.
The persecution of Iwacu did not stop there. Several of its journalists were jailed and prosecuted for using their right to journalistic freedom and for providing their fellow citizens with freely reported and reliable news and information.
Iwacu founder Antoine Kaburahe, who now lives in exile said: “Blocking the Iwacu newspaper’s website was an abusive act, a serious breach of the right to information enshrined in Burundi’s constitution. This unblocking is a step in the right direction but it should not make us forget that around 100 Burundian journalists are still living in exile and that others were unjustly sentenced to long prison terms. Much remains to be done.”