Life without FM: Exiles broadcast on WhatsApp
Burundi journalists use phome audio files to reach their audiences
well as posting them on a website and other platforms. The members of those initial groups can, and do, forward the file to their own circles, and so the audience builds in a classically viral way.
A similar model is used by another group of exiled journalists, Humura Burundi, a project of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA).
Humura also make use of shortwave and has a partnership with a community radio station across the border in the DRC which rebroadcasts its material, reaching parts of Bujumbura, according to director Bob Rugurika. But WhatsApp remains primary, reaching audiences inside Burundi, in the diaspora and among the hundreds of thousands of people now in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, whose need for news from back home is particularly acute.
Although it depends on the availability of smartphones and some data, the technique is remarkably successful.
An audience survey conducted by an NGO late last year revealed that Inzamba reaches just over 300 000 people over 18 in Burundi.
Adding in younger listeners and those in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, that adds up to a sizeable audience for an unconventional platform.
The same survey estimates Humura’s audience at just over 400 000 adults.
Rugurika estimates that the audience is significantly larger but it is still far below the numbers the independent radio stations attracted when they were broadcasting on FM from inside the country.
RPA used to be the biggest broadcaster in Burundi by a sizeable margin, bigger than the state broadcaster RTNB.
According to a 2013 audience survey by French company Immar, d and in some cases burnt down.
Around 100 journalists fled into exile, mostly to Rwanda, according to an estimate by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
They included not only most of the staff of the independent radio stations, but most of the leadership of Burundian journalism as a whole. They were welcomed and supported by their Rwandan colleagues, and were soon able to launch Inzamba, and then Humura.
Given the history of genocide in the region, and specifically the role of radio, there had been significant international support for the independent Burundian media, and some of this helped the newly exiled journalists in their new venture of building radio stations without an FM frequency.
Originally published in the JAMLAB magazine: https:// medium.com/jamlab/radio-lifewithout-fm-exiled-burundianradio-journalists-take-towhatsapp-cb28fbdb6b83