Burundi: private media increasingly faced with financial problems

Burundi: private media increasingly faced with financial problems

Burundian media have been facing financial difficulties for some time. Interns and volunteers are the ones mostly hired for long periods as they’re less demanding in terms of salary. Even the other journalists having no contract do not receive their salaries regularly. Media support fund provided for by the law governing the press is almost non-existent. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Since the crisis of 2015, the Burundian private media have functioned as best they could. Both old media and the new ones have financial worries and few of them can “regularly pay the salaries of their staff”.

“It’s no longer surprising that we go three months without our salaries. We work in the hope of a better tomorrow, but the living conditions are deteriorating overnight” testifies a senior journalist of a former independent media.

According to our sources in several media, some employers often hire unpaid interns and volunteers just to “keep running”.

“Some service providers can spend two years under the status of intern or volunteer. This leads to regular departures of employees going in search of the best conditions”.

The situation affects the professionalism of the job. In focus groups with their peers, journalists never stop worrying about the future of their profession.

“Professional journalism is giving way more and more to food journalism where reporters are only interested in those who offer them money under several names (per diems, travel expenses, refreshment expenses,… Few are now journalists who cover subjects that require traveling on the ground because they can’t gain anything financially”, lament colleagues.

What about sources of media funding…?

According to sources in certain media, the latter fall back on small projects financed by partners, especially local ones. But the needs of the media are so enormous that they cannot be covered by this funding. Most media no longer receive direct funding for major projects from traditional donors (the European Union, the embassies of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Swiss cooperation, etc.).

“Funding is granted through the Dutch NGO Benevolencia”, say our sources.

Several journalists say they are at the end of their tether. Some have already left the profession, unable to support them.

“I was only paid a hundred thousand francs a month. With this rise in food prices and the high cost of living, I preferred to leave the profession. It is better to go and cultivate your little plot of land”, regrets a former reporter, who nevertheless loves the job of journalist.

“If I have a chance to have a new employer who pays me a reasonable sum, I will come back. I miss the job,” he says.

Last week, Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza acknowledged that the financial difficulties facing the media contribute to the deterioration of the professionalism of the Burundian press.

“To cope with financial difficulties, some radio and TV stations have drawn staff from young unemployed people with no experience and this has opened up the profession to amateurism and has hampered the professionalism which should characterize the profession of journalist”, lamented Mr. Bazombanza.

“Things will only get worse in a country where advertising costs are illusory and where journalists only report on the problems of other sectors only, preferring to appear as heroes when in reality they are melting away “, says a colleague.

The law governing the press in the small East African nation provides for a media support fund. It remains very small although still promised by the Burundian authorities.

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