Life with­out FM: Ex­iles broad­cast on What­sApp

Bu­rundi jour­nal­ists use phome au­dio files to reach their au­di­ences

African Independent - - NEWS -

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

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