IDUAI in Burundi: Journalists demand cooperation for public information

While the world celebrates the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on September 28th, some Burundian journalists demand access to information and equal treatment. The ministry of information says journalists are well and equally treated.

Journalists: “We should have access to information regardless of media we work for”

Journalists: “We should have access to information regardless of media we work for”

Some Burundian journalists face problems related to information access. They say they are sometimes discriminated depending on the media they are working for. “Recently I wanted to cover the mine and energy ministry’s field work in Gakara zone but my invitation was turned down,” said a journalist from a private medium operating in Bujumbura. He added that those who refuse them access to media coverage simply tell them that there is no need without giving explanations. “We should have equal treatment regardless of the news media we work for,” he says.

Other journalists say they face a problem of lack of information from authorities and experts. “There are some authorities who refuse to give us information. This hampers our job,” says another journalist on condition of anonymity. He added that the lack of analysis and reactions from experts is also a handicap to their profession.

“They say they fear for their security .It is difficult to have an expert’s reaction these days,” he says.

For some TV journalists, access to information requires much effort. “For we who use camera, it’s hard to get people to be interviewed. People fear to expose themselves to the public,” says Sheilla Irambona, a web TV journalist.

Telecommunication minister, Nestor Bankumukunzi, says journalists are well treated and have freedom of expression as stated in the Burundian Constitution. “There are rules that govern them and even the constitution allows them to work but they have to abide by the law,” he says.

About the question of media that were set ablaze and others closed during the political crisis and which have not yet opened, Bankumukunzi says he regrets the closing of those media. “As a telecommunication minister, I regret that some media have been closed. However, as I said, if the justice proves them guilty or their cases are still being dealt with, I have no right to interfere in its job”

Journalists appeal to all the institutions to be cooperative so as to ensure public access to information and to bear in mind that the task of journalists is to inform the public.