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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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Snap to cut emissions, achieves carbon neutrality in new climate strategy

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Snap Inc on Monday announced a climate strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, purchase 100% renewable energy and remain carbon neutral after offsetting emissions dating back to its launch.

The plan, which the owner of photo messaging app Snapchat detailed in its annual “CitizenSnap” report on social and environmental initiatives, comes as climate change debates include tech companies and the energy-intensive process of running powerful computer data servers has become better known.

By making the company more energy efficient, Snap could not only reduce costs in the long run, but also appeal to its mostly young user base, which is passionate about addressing climate change, said Dom Perella, Snap’s deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer.

“They’re going to be living with the brunt of these impacts for many generations,” he said. “Because it impacts our stakeholders… we want to make a difference.”

By 2025, Snap plans to reduce emissions generated from its business operations by 25%, in part by making its buildings more energy efficient and purchasing renewable energy, Perella said.

The company also aims to reduce emissions from business travel and from purchased goods and services by 35% “per unit of value” by shifting to climate-friendly travel options and pushing vendors to reduce their emissions.

Snap said it determined the reduction levels by working with the Science Based Targets initiative, a coalition that advises companies on reducing emissions to meet goals outlined by the Paris Agreement international treaty on climate change.

The Santa Monica, California-based company said it is now carbon neutral, helped by investing in forestry projects across the world to offset its emissions.

It also calculated its emissions dating back to Snapchat’s launch in 2011 and offset its emissions to become retroactively carbon neutral.

Other tech companies have also moved to offset emissions retroactively. Alphabet Inc’s Google said last year it had eliminated its carbon emissions history before 2007, when the company said it became carbon neutral.

 

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Britney Spears calls recent documentaries about her ‘hypocritical’

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop singer Britney Spears spoke out on Tuesday about recent documentaries about her life and career, calling them “hypocritical” because they rehash her personal problems while criticizing the media for reporting them the first time.

Walt Disney Co’s FX network and The New York Times released “Framing Britney Spears” in February. The documentary examined the singer’s meteoric rise to fame as a teenager, the ensuing media scrutiny and her widely publicized breakdown.And this month, the BBC released “The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship” in Britain. It will debut in the United States and Canada starting May 11 via the BBC Select streaming service.

In an Instagram post, Spears did not name either documentary but said “so many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life.”

“These documentaries are so hypocritical … they criticize the media and then do the same thing,” she added.

In March, Spears said she cried for two weeks after watching part of “Framing Britney Spears”.

The BBC said in a statement on Tuesday that its documentary “explores the complexities surrounding conservatorship with care and sensitivity.”

“It does not take sides and features a wide range of contributors,” the statement added.

A New York Times spokesperson declined to comment.

Spears, who shot to fame in 1998 with the hit “Baby One More Time,” is in a court battle seeking to replace her father as her conservator. He was appointed to the role in 2008 after she was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

Her fans have shown their support on social media under the hashtags #We’reSorryBritney and #FreeBritney. Spears is scheduled to speak to a Los Angeles court in June.

In her Instagram post, which included a video of herself dancing, Spears said that “although I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life … I’ve had waaaayyyy more amazing times in my life and unfortunately my friends … I think the world is more interested in the negative.”

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Grammy organizers change rules after allegations of corruption

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The organizers of music’s Grammy Awards on Friday announced an end to the so-called “secret” committees that have led to allegations that the highest honors in the industry are open to rigging.

The Recording Academy said that nominations for the next Grammy Awards in January 2022 will be selected by all of its more than 11,000 voting members, instead of by committees of 15-30 industry experts whose names were not revealed.

The Academy was slammed last year when Canadian artist The Weeknd got zero Grammy nominations, even though his critically acclaimed album “After Hours” was one of the biggest sellers of 2020.

The Weeknd, in a Twitter post last November, said “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”

The Recording Academy said in a statement on Friday that the changes were significant and were made “to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable.”

Allegations that the Grammy nominations process is tainted were made in a legal complaint filed in early 2019 by the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan.

At the time, the Academy dismissed as “categorically false, misleading and wrong” Dugan’s claims that its members pushed artists they have relationships with. Dugan was later fired.

American pop star Halsey, also shut out of the 2021 Grammys, last year called the nominations process “elusive” and said she was “hoping for more transparency or reform.”

Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik called in March for an end to “secret committees.”

“I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating ‘creative excellence’ of ALL,” Malik tweeted hours ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony.

The Recording Academy on Friday also said it was adding two new Grammy categories – for best global music performance, and best Latin urban music album – bringing to 86 the total number of Grammy Awards each year.

 

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)

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