Photograph — Voice of America

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has made public its decision to permanently stop operations in Burundi. This decision comes after the media organization and the government failed to reach an agreement on the airing of programmes.

“The BBC is closing its Bujumbura bureau and ceasing operations in Burundi. In March, the government banned BBC transmissions and blocked journalists from providing information to the BBC. It says efforts to resolve the issues have failed,” Larry Madowo, BBC Editor tweeted.

In what seemed like an unending case, independent media bodies, BBC and the Voice of America (VOA) continued to suffer oppression from the Burundi government. In May 2018, they were barred from broadcasting, with the government also placing stern instructions to other journalists to restrain from contributing to the two organizations.

The inability of both organizations to demonstrate press freedom was made worse in March after Burundi’s media regulator, the National Communication Council (NCC), announced that it had withdrawn the operating license for the BBC and renewed its suspension of the VOA. Both agencies have found it difficult to thrive in the toxic and repressive state.

The government argued that the British media giant airs content in a bid to damage the country’s reputation, after a broadcast documentary on secret torture and detention. BBC, on the other hand, says it is the government’s attempt to prevent the world from knowing the various human rights violations going on in Burundi.

The government has proved to be incapable of tolerating these criticisms from the British company, hence withdrawing its license. Clearly, negotiations were futile.

Ultimately, the media industry of Burundi is dominated by fear and restraint. Several journalists have been harassed and some have gone on a self-imposed exile.

The repressive nature of Burundi’s government has also affected Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) operating in the country, some of which were suspended late last year. While there are several reported cases of human rights abuses which put the nation at risk of further global isolation.


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