Burundi to lift six-month ban on BBC and VOA

Wednesday May 23 2018

Karenga Ramadhan, the chairman of Burundi's National Communications Council. PHOTO | MOSES HAVYARIMANA | NMG

Karenga Ramadhan, the chairman of Burundi's National Communications Council when he announced the suspension of BBC and VOA on May 7, 2018. PHOTO | MOSES HAVYARIMANA | NMG 

MOSES HAVYARIMANA
By MOSES HAVYARIMANA
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Burundi is considering to lift the six-month ban imposed on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA), the National Communications Council said on Wednesday.

Bujumbura suspended the operations of the two international stations on May 7, barely two weeks before the constitutional amendment referendum to extend presidential terms and powers.

The government accused BBC of broadcasting content that “put national cohesion and reconciliation at stake,” while VOA, was banned for partnering with and using online websites of some local media houses that had been shut down in 2015.

Karenga Ramadhan, the chairman of the communication regulatory body, said Wednesday that companies' officials are due in the country but did not indicate when.

“The National Communication Council highly appreciates the way the officials have recognised some of the shortcomings in some of their programmes and news and took measures to address them,” Mr Ramadhani said.

“VOA wrote to us on May 18 and recognised some shortcomings, they also refuted some allegations which we had levelled against them,” he said, adding that the media house will send a “high-level” team to Burundi to discuss terms of lifting the ban.

BBC and VOA Kirundi services have been gaining popularity in the country since 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza sought and won a controversial term in office that plunged the nation into a crisis.

Some 1,200 people have died and more than 400,000 have been displaced, humanitarian agencies say.

According to the May 17 referendum results released by the electoral commission, 73 per cent of voters cast their ballots in favour of law reforms that allow President Nkurunziza another 14 years in office.

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