WASHINGTON, United States, Aug 22 – A reporter from Burundi representing a collective of mostly anonymous journalists reporting from their violence-wracked country has won the 2016 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, organizers said Monday.
Eloge Willy Kaneza is the public face of SOS Media Burundi, a collective formed after the closure of radio stations during the May 2015 coup attempt against President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Using smartphones and mobile applications, the 34-year-old Kaneza and his colleagues “work under difficult circumstances as the only source of news for their countrymen and those outside Burundi,” organizers said.
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.
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 authorities and uncontrolled armed groups have become the number-one menace for journalists” in Burundi, said Clea Kahn-Scriber at the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Africa Desk.
Working as a journalist “with such integrity and courage” in such a situation “is absolutely remarkable.
“Eloge deserves this award that is not only a testimony to his work, but a strong message of hope sent to the whole Burundian journalistic community,” Kahn-Scriber said.
Kaneza is both fearless and “an excellent reporter who strives to get both sides of the story,” added Negussie Mengesha, director of the Africa Division at the Voice of America.
“His survival in this very troubled country could be due to his fairness,” Mengesha said.
The award, named for the late AFP journalist Peter Mackler, is presented by the Global Media Forum along with RSF and Agence France-Presse.
Kaneza will receive the award in a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington on October 13.
The prize was created in 2008 to honor the memory of Mackler, who died of a heart attack that year at the age of 58.