An end to five years of predatory behaviour?
The election of a new president in May 2020 has raised journalists’ hopes after years of persecution since a coup attempt in 2015, which resulted in more than 100 journalists fleeing the country and the closure of many media outlets. The release in December 2020 of four reporters with Iwacu, Burundi’s leading independent media group, who had been jailed arbitrarily for more than a year, and the president’s request to the media regulator to “settle the differences” with sanctioned media outlets were seen as encouraging signs. But they will have to be confirmed by decisive measures, especially with regard to the exiled journalists and with regard to the security forces and pro-government militias, which have become used to intimidating and attacking journalists. Because the problems are profound. For more than five years the official discourse has associated non-aligned media with enemies of the nation. “Moralisation sessions,” some hosted by the former president himself, were often organised for journalists in order to familiarise them with the official line. But pens, microphones and cameras were banned. The clampdown on the local media was reinforced by a ban on two leading international radio stations, the VOA and the BBC, and few foreign reporters were given accreditation. Fear, resignation and self-censorship have tended to dominate the media outlets still operating in Burundi, especially as Iwacu journalist Jean Bigirimana’s disappearance in July 2016 was never properly investigated.
160 in 2020
55.33 in 2020