Social networks

Despite the low Internet penetration, social networks have become familiar among young people of Burundi and also the public administration has learned how to use them to communicate to internal and external audiences and to react constantly to information that it deems erroneous. Civil servants are the main users. Almost all ministries have an information site and Facebook and Twitter accounts. Police and military personnel use them to receive information from different sectors of society.

Media outlets use social networks as sources of information but also as a means of reaching other audiences. Social networks enjoy strong media collection capacity. Journalists have also become more accountable to the audience they serve because the dialogue with the recipients of the information disseminated is spontaneous and sometimes not at all friendly, especially when they make information-processing mistakes. It is important to stress that social networks break the journalists’ monopoly over the production of content but give them the important role of verifying the accuracy of the information they present.

With the destruction of some independent media in the 2015 crisis, social networks have become an effective means of exchanging information even if manipulation happens. The Yaga blog of 14 November, 2016 noted that: "After the destruction of several media and the intimidation that some journalists are currently experiencing, social networks are in great demand, for example, the Burundian Twitter community has seen its numbers grow, despite multiple reported abuses, including criticism of rumors."

Burundians exiled abroad communicate with each other and with Burundians who have remained in the country using social networks. The government, fearing subversion favoured by these exchanges, is irritated by the relatively long time that Burundians spend on social networks even during working hours. In 2018, the President of the Burundian Senate, Revérien Ndikuriyo, proposed that digital platforms should be taxed in order to discourage overconsumption. Also in 2018, the CNC council warned the media against the dissemination of information on social networks without having reported it to this regulatory body.

It might seem that the government of Burundi is following the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which on 31 December, 2018 decided the obstruction of access to the Internet and social networks. Likewise Uganda has also implemented a digital platform tax in July 2018 and Tanzania charges US$900 to bloggers for a three-year license. As noted by in October 2018, "the power of social media lies in the fact that they are less dependent on state structures and can be out of control, which makes it difficult for governments to steer social and political discourse. Social media makes it awkward for leaders to say that users can build alliances and challenge state action.”