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European Union Pushes Burundi to Respect Media Freedom

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(L) Claude Bochu, European Union envoy to Burundi speaks to President Evariste Ndayishimiye

Burundi journalists still suffer state inspired intimidation which directly affects democracy according to the European Union.

“ The European Union defends media freedom and pluralism as pillars of modern democracy and as catalysts for free and open debate ”, said Claude Bochu, European Union envoy to Burundi.

Bochu said that “freedom of the press remains a major issue on a daily basis. In this regard, I would like to salute the resilience of the many Burundian journalists who work in difficult conditions, facing in turn pressure and intimidation, the reluctance of some to communicate fully, even working conditions and wages that are sometimes incapacitating.”

He called on the government to strengthen its role as facilitator while respecting the autonomy of the media. And wondered if strong associations of journalists or publishers were not relevant in Burundi in order to be interlocutors with the National Council of Communication or more generally the authorities.

The EU envoy said that Internet and social networks have enormously increased access to information of all kinds, however, he regretted that the latter were an easy way to spread rumors and deliberately false information.

For Claude Bochu, the best way to counter false information is to make reliable information available: “ It is gratifying that responsible media are more present online ”.

Prosper Banzombanza, Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi.
“The introduction of social media has also changed the face of the Burundian media landscape. Media that often escape the control of the regulator have emerged.”

He castigates that the profession of journalism has thus opened up to amateurism, which has hindered professionalism: “ The Internet is neither to be ignored nor to be idolized. We must, therefore, insist on professionalism in the search for information so that the population is not abused”.

Prosper Banzombanza invited the partners to support the media by strengthening their capacity to collect authentic information: “ If the media informs us correctly, they will have helped us not navigate the storm ”.