Burundi government has lifted sanctions against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) after almost three years since it was banned to operate in the country.
The Burundi National Communication Council (CNC) announced on Wednesday that the BBC had been allowed to reopen its offices in the country and resume its services.
“You remember that we had authorised their reopening, but there were some few formalities which were needed, and now they are free to operate once again in Burundi,” said Vestine Nahimana, the CNC president.
The media regulator revoked the BBC licence in 2019 and prohibited local journalists from contributing to it. A similar fate befell the Voice of America since its indefinite suspension in April 2019.
Read: BBC shuts Burundi bureau
Last year, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye told CNC to open dialogue with banned local and international media houses for a possible reopening.
BBC now becomes the second media house to reopen after Bonesha Radio, a local station, in February last year. The station was suspended in 2015 after its owners were accused of playing a role in the failed coup against former president Pierre Nkurunziza.
African Public Radio and Renaissance TV are among the local media houses also banned since 2015.
Burundi was ranked 147 out of 180 countries in press freedom in 2021, an improvement from 2020 when it was position 160.
According to the World Press Freedom report, the election of President Ndayishimiye in May 2020 raised journalists’ hopes after years of persecution.
The release in December 2020 of four reporters of Iwacu, Burundi’s leading independent media group, who had been jailed arbitrarily for more than a year and the President’s request to the media regulator to “settle the differences” with sanctioned media outlets were seen as encouraging.