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Burundi: How sincere is Ndayishimiye’s ‘outstretched hand’ to the media? – The Africa Report

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Maybe, Maybe Not

By Franck Kaze
Posted on Monday, 8 February 2021 18:13

Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye during a speech to media representatives, January 28, 2021. © DR / Burundian Presidency.

Évariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi’s President, has assured the media that he is ready to engage in dialogue with them. A declaration made as the country opens discussions with the EU to lift its economic sanctions.

Should this be seen as a real gesture of appeasement or a simple communication strategy? On Thursday 28 January, President Evariste Ndayishimiye addressed media officials in a way not seen since he took over the country last June.

Comparing the media to “children like any other” of the “benevolent state”, he called on the National Communication Council (CNC) to open, “as soon as possible”, a dialogue with the media. “It is important to find a solution to our previous differences. Media networks have been either sanctioned or suspended. The CNC must sit down with the directors of these networks so that a solution can be found and this dossier can be closed. We must get to work,” he said.

READ MORE Burundi’s President Ndayishimiye: new cabinet, new COVID strategy

This announcement had been communicated on government social media with the hashtag #NeverWithoutMedia. It had surprised Burundian and international professionals of the sector who had been attending a workshop at the Kiriri Garden Hotel since the day before on “the role and responsibility of the media in the development of the country, the safeguarding of social cohesion and the protection of human rights.”

“A step in the right direction”

Télé Renaissance, the privately-owned African Public Radio (RPA, whose premises had been destroyed during the 2015 crisis) and the Burundian Union of Journalists (UBJ) cautiously welcomed this “step in the right direction.”

In a joint statement, Innocent Muhozi, the director of Télé Renaissance, Bob Rugurika, director of the RPA and Alexandre Niyungeko, president of the UBJ, said they were “ready to engage in dialogue to restore freedom of the press in Burundi.”

They warned, however, that it “could not be restored in the current situation, where freedoms and rights do not exist,” deeming that “a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue with all actors of Burundian society is essential to restore public freedoms.”

“Let’s not forget that the BBC and VOA radio stations have been suspended. If this call concerns all media, including those in exile, we are ready to respond,” Muhozi told us. “Have the conditions to ensure a free press been met? Will the media be able to report on all news, even news that doesn’t please the authorities? Will independent civil society be able to do its work freely and denounce, for example, human rights violations?” he asked, mentioning, among the conditions necessary for dialogue, “the safety of those returning and the lifting of arrest warrants for some of us.”

Recalling the release, on 24 December, of the four Iwacu journalists who were arrested in October 2019, RSF for its part welcomed “encouraging signs for journalists in the country”, while stressing that “the stakes remain high, [including] the restoration of a climate of trust between the independent media and the administration.”

An “initial contact”

While extending his hand to the media, Ndayishimiye simultaneously defined the role of journalists, who – according to him – “have a capacity of nuisance proportional to their ability to positively and effectively influence their environment, on the development of the country.” He asked that “these media networks pledge to participate in the development of the country.”

A sign that there is still a long way to go was the fact that at the first meeting convened by the TNC to lay the foundations for this future dialogue, no representatives from media networks that had been exiled were invited.

READ MORE Burundi: Why history will judge Pierre Nkurunziza harshly

In addition to the BBC and VOA, four Burundian bodies were present: the Iwacu press group, the online newspapers Ikiriho and Nawe, as well as the Bonesha FM radio station, represented by its director, Léon Masengo.

“It was not my responsibility to invite the media networks that have been exiled,” said Nestor Bankumukunzi, the president of the CNC, at the end of these exchanges which were only an “initial contact.” “Discussions will continue with each media organisation individually, during which we will resolve issues, if any, relating to justice,” said Bankumukunzi.

The issue of sanctions

This opening of dialogue comes at a time when relations between the Burundian authorities and the EU are improving. After a first meeting on 27 January, the EU representatives and the Burundian authorities met again soon after on Tuesday 2 February.

Albert Shingiro, the Burundian foreign affairs minister, met the EU ambassador, Claude Bochu, as well as diplomats from European countries in Bujumbura (Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands). At the centre of the discussions were the economic sanctions that the EU had imposed on the Burundian government during the Nkurunziza era, due to the “serious human rights violations” that were being committed at the time.

READ MORE Burundi: It’s time to release human rights defender Germain Rukuki

“Where there is a will, there is a way”, said Bochu at the end of the meeting, without giving more details on the content of the discussions. “We can’t drag our feet anymore. We have to conclude this dialogue as soon as possible,” said Shingiro.

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Foreign journalists in China see 'rapid decline in media freedom'- survey – Financial Post

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BEIJING — China used coronavirus prevention measures, intimidation and visa curbs to limit foreign reporting in 2020, ushering in a “rapid decline in media freedom,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said on Monday.

For the third year in a row, no journalists told the group that working conditions had improved, the FCCC said in an annual report based on 150 responses to a survey of correspondents and interviews with bureau chiefs.

“All arms of state power – including surveillance systems introduced to curb coronavirus – were used to harass and intimidate journalists, their Chinese colleagues, and those whom the foreign press sought to interview,” it said.

Authorities cited public health concerns to deny reporters access to sensitive areas and threatened them with enforced quarantine, it added. Visa restrictions were also used to put pressure on reporting.

At least 13 correspondents were given press credentials valid for 6 months or less, the FCCC said. Foreign reporters based in China typically receive one-year visas and must renew them annually.

Journalists were also used as “pawns” in China’s diplomatic disputes, it added.

China expelled more than a dozen foreign journalists at U.S. media organizations in 2020, amid a series of tit-for-tat actions between the countries. Washington also slashed the number of journalists permitted to work in the United States at four major Chinese state-owned media outlets.

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In September, Australia helped two of its foreign correspondents leave China after they were questioned by the country’s state security ministry.

Journalists reporting from far western Xinjiang, where China has been accused of large-scale human rights abuses, encountered especially intense harassment, the report said.

Last year Chinese authorities detained Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen working for Chinese state media, and later Haze Fan, a Chinese national working for Bloomberg News, both on suspicion of endangering national security.

Both remain in detention.

Some Reuters journalists are members of the FCCC. (Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and William Mallard)

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Central Okanagan media companies launch Local Advertising Initiative – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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With many businesses struggling through the pandemic, “support local” is a phrase heard more often than ever recently.

But you often see those businesses, big and small, buying advertising directly from Facebook and Google. It’s important to be mindful of where businesses are investing and how those decisions impact our local economy.

Castanet has joined forces with other local media companies in the Central Okanagan to present the Local Advertising Initiative. Many members of the initiative provide you with local news and entertainment, enriching the community and employing your neighbours.

“Locally bought advertising allows you to create a local presence through trusted local brands online, on-air and in print,” said Chris Kearney, Castanet senior vice president and Kelowna general manager.

“You won’t ever see Facebook and Google support charities and nonprofits like the Central Okanagan Food Bank or BC SPCA, but local media companies do.”

There is a wide variety of highly effective options to support local media organizations, including digital, radio, print, outdoor and event advertising.

Localizing your ads also allows you to make a personal connection with your ideal consumer, many of whom log onto their favourite websites, tune into the same radio stations, or view their favourite newscast every day.

That trust is powerful to customers.

To learn more about the Local Advertising Initiative, or to get involved, click here.

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Mother of rotational worker says family harassed because of false social media posts – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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GLACE BAY – Venice Vance hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since Wednesday.

That was the day her son Nick Kelly returned to their Glace Bay home at 2:30 a.m. where he started his 14-day isolation, separated from the rest of the family in the basement.

A pipe fitter, 19-year-old Kelly and two other rotational workers from Cape Breton arrived early morning on Feb. 24 after driving home from Alberta where they were working.

By Thursday, the three young men were being targeted on social media with posts and rants about them breaking provincial public health protocols after one of them had their first required COVID-19 test results come back positive. Kelly’s test result came back negative.

“I hate that there was fiction put out there instead of facts. People just assume. The kids were targeted because of lies instead of the truth. They aren’t doing what everybody is saying,” said Vance during a phone interview from her Glace Bay home.

“And that poor boy that has COVID … he has a (respiratory condition). That boy is home. He hasn’t left his home and no one is concerned about how he’s doing.”

RUMOUR MILL CHURNS

Along with the social media posts, rants in group threads and chat rooms resulted in threatening private messages to the three rotational workers. Vance also got those messages and is diligently trying to fight misinformation about her son online.

“(It feels horrible) because you have to explain yourself and put out information the public shouldn’t even know,” she said.

Posts were being shared saying Kelly was the one with the virus. Vance posted his test results from Nova Scotia Health to prove it was negative.

Screengrabs of Kelly’s location through multimedia messaging app, Snapchat, were posted and shared as proof he wasn’t obeying isolation orders. These screengrabs show Kelly’s Snapchat image on the road; in one screengrab his character, or avatar, is seen in a car.

Alleged sightings of the men at public places were popping up. Vance said a woman alleged she saw Kelly and his stepfather at a restaurant.

When Vance questioned her in the social media thread it became apparent the woman saw Vance’s husband and his friend at the restaurant a week before Kelly was in Nova Scotia.

People also claimed the men were at a party in Glace Bay on Saturday – three days before the men arrived in Cape Breton.

At some point the rumour about the young men being at the party, which happened on Feb. 20, the Saturday before they returned to Cape Breton, turned into Kelly throwing the party.

“There was no party. Nick got in at 2:30 in the morning. Who throws a party at 2:30,” Vance said during the phone interview.

“The party they are saying they saw the boys at was on Saturday. They weren’t even home on Saturday. People can check this out. Call the Nova Scotia border and see when they did their check-in.”

Rumours swirled around the men having girlfriends at Glace Bay High School. Vance said her son’s girlfriend is in second year of college and she hasn’t seen him because, like the other two workers, he’s been in self-isolation.

“There’s one guy who posted that these three boys planned this,” Vance said. “That they came home here to spread COVID. Like, it was unreal what was being posted and what was being said.”

Kelly’s family has also been affected even though they are doing more than what public health directives require.

Vance said a business called to inquire when her husband, who hasn’t travelled, had returned to Canada indicating they heard the family had COVID-19.

She also saw posts saying the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. store in Glace Bay was closed because she had been in there. Having not been in there for a week, Vance called the store who told her they hadn’t closed.

Even Vance’s daughter who doesn’t live with them has been affected.

“My daughter goes to Glace Bay High. She lives with her father,” said Vance. “She has people not going near her, shunning her and her step-sister. They were nowhere near their brother.”

DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS

One of the 10 cases of COVID-19 announced on Friday was located in the eastern zone. Another case in the zone was announced on Saturday.

After cases are detected, public health officials do contact tracing and alerts are issued indicating locations of possible exposure to the virus.

There have been no new possible exposure locations announced for anywhere in Cape Breton and on the two pages of listings online, none are located in the eastern zone, which includes the geographic region of Cape Breton Island as well as Antigonish and Guysborough counties on the mainland.

During Friday’s COVID-19 update, the province’s medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said domestic workers have different requirements during isolation directives when they return from working out-of-province and people need to remember this.

Instead of isolating alone or having to isolate with the other residents of the home, rotational workers can isolate with family members who are allowed to leave the home at will.

Isolating rotational workers can also drive family members to work or school and get take-out, as well as pick up contactless retail orders.

“People need to understand what the requirements are for different groups,” Strang said during Friday’s briefing with reporters.

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