24 May 2018

Burundi: Govt Signals Readiness to Lift Ban on VOA, BBC Broadcasts

Photo: © Landry Nshimiye - Belgaimage
President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi said it is ready to lift a six-month ban on VOA and BBC broadcasts, but after it meets with delegations from the two global media outlets.

Burundi’s National Communication Council announced the blackouts three weeks ago. It said VOA and the BBC broke media laws and carried out “unethical conduct” in its coverage of Burundi, including votes on changing the constitution to extend presidential terms.

Jeffrey Trimble, deputy director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, defended VOA coverage in a letter last week to communication council head Karenga Ramadhan.

Trimble cited two VOA stories on Burundi that were broadcast in April — one on a U.N Security Council statement, and another on a Human Rights Watch press conference — as accurately reported, comprehensive and balanced.

But Trimble acknowledged shortcomings in VOA coverage of a press conference by PARCEM, an NGO in Burundi.

Trimble said the story “failed to provide substantiating information” after PARCEM alleged an increase in killings and arrests in Burundi. He said reaction from a government spokesman, included in a separate story, should have been part of the first report and that the problem should have been caught.

Trimble said VOA broadcasts to Burundi reach 57 percent of the adult population and that the BBG and VOA are willing to send a delegation to Burundi to discuss the country’s concerns.

“VOA is committed to accurate reporting and factual news coverage. ... We value our relationship with the people of Burundi and look forward to providing news and information to your citizens for many years to come," he said in a written statement.

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