Burundi in ‘media blackout’

As Burundi’s political crisis deepens, tensions escalate and violent clashes continue, the country’s journalists are coming under massive pressure, finds International Media Support’s recent assessment of the situation.

UPDATE: The report is also available in French

The new report provides recommendations on how the international media development community can provide assistance to Burundian journalists.

Read the full report: Radio silence: Burundi’s media and the 2015 election crisis

The report identifies two main challenges currently being faced by journalists and media workers in Burundi: Security and financial survival.

IMS alongside the rest of the international media development community has expressed concerns for partners on the ground in Burundi. In the run-up to elections on 29 June, 16 international press freedom groups urged Burundi’s authorities to allow for a re-opening of the country’s media.

As of 18 June 2015, around 50 journalists had fled the country. Others have been trying to escape, but were turned away by security forces at border crossings.

Those interviewed for the assessment request an urgent strengthening of international advocacy. International organisations are encouraged to lobby international bodies such as the African Union, the East African Community as well as the President of Burundi for protection of journalists and basic human rights. The report finds that there is an intense frustration on the ground over the lack of global awareness of what is happening in the country.

“Why did the world mobilise after Charlie Hebdo but not for us?” asks a Burundian journalist. “We are in a media blackout,” said another.

The report recommends rebuilding and re-equipping radio stations and providing financial support to journalists in Burundi and journalists who have escaped to Rwanda. Further, safety issues should be addressed, including by providing access to protective safety gear.

Read more about the recommendations in the report

International Media Support (IMS) will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and will provide an updated version of the report shortly after the scheduled presidential elections in July 2015.