Award win­ning jour­nal­ist sees hope for Bu­rundi

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

WASH­ING­TON — The win­ner of the 2016 Peter Mack­ler Award for Coura­geous and Eth­i­cal Jour­nal­ism, Bu­rundi’s Eloge Willy Kaneza, said on Thurs­day the prize of­fers hope “that my coun­try can be healed”.

Ac­cept­ing the award at a Wash­ing­ton cer­e­mony, Kaneza said the recog­ni­tion en­cour­ages jour­nal­ists in the vi­o­lence-torn African na­tion to con­tinue their ef­forts in de­liv­er­ing news and de­bunk­ing ru­mours.

“This gives courage not only to me, but to my friends, my col­leagues, my col­lec­tive of jour­nal­ists,” Kaneza told the au­di­ence at the Na­tional Press Club.

“We gain courage and the force to con­tinue do­ing our work ac­cu­rately and pro­fes­sion­ally and to con­tinue giv­ing bal­anced in­for­ma­tion.”

The recog­ni­tion from those out­side the coun­try, Kaneza said, is a pos­i­tive sign for Bu­rundi.

“This is a time of hope that my coun­try can be healed of its wounds,” he said.

Kaneza (34) is the pub­lic face of SOS Me­dia Bu­rundi, a col­lec­tive of mostly anony­mous jour­nal­ists formed af­ter the clo­sure of ra­dio sta­tions dur­ing the May 2015 coup at­tempt against Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza.

The col­lec­tive uses Face­book, Twit­ter and What­sApp as tools, with rig­or­ous ver­i­fi­ca­tion of facts by teams in­side and out­side the coun­try to help pre­vent the spread of ru­mours that can lead to panic.

Kaneza views his role “as pre­vent­ing peo­ple from con­sum­ing ru­mours, be­cause ru­mours can kill,” he said.

SOS Me­dia Bu­rundi, set up within 48 hours of the failed coup, pub­lishes via Face­book and Twit­ter as well as on the mu­sic shar­ing site SoundCloud.

Re­porters re­main anony­mous, work in iso­la­tion, and cope with the coun­try’s poor com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture by mov­ing from one Wi-Fi hotspot to an­other. Ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sions are dis­cussed via the en­crypted mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion What­sApp

Bu­rundi has been in chaos since Nku­run­z­iza an­nounced plans in April 2015 to run for a third term, which he went on to win.

More than 500 peo­ple have since died, and at least 270 000 have fled the coun­try.

The UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors say that in the 12-month pe­riod af­ter the cri­sis be­gan, at least 348 peo­ple were vic­tims of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and 651 in­ci­dents of tor­ture were recorded.

The award came as the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­cided to dis­patch an en­voy to Bu­rundi af­ter the gov­ern­ment in Bu­jum­bura broke off ties with UN rights mon­i­tors and kept up re­sis­tance to the de­ploy­ment of a UN po­lice force.

Also Thurs­day, the US-based Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists called on Bu­rundi's na­tional in­tel­li­gence ser­vice to re­lease ra­dio jour­nal­ist Sal­vador Nahi­mana, de­tained since Oc­to­ber 2.

The award, named for the late AFP jour­nal­ist Peter Mack­ler, is pre­sented by the Global Me­dia Fo­rum along with Re­porters With­out Bor­ders (RSF) and Agence France-Presse.

The prize was cre­ated in 2008 to honor the mem­ory of Mack­ler, who died of a heart at­tack that year at age 58. — AP

One of the 21 freed Chi­bok girls in Nige­ria cries while hold­ing her baby. — AFP

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