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Dutch authorities release MH17 probe reports

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The Hague: Dutch authorities on Tuesday released the findings of their probe into the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash over the conflict-hit region in eastern Ukraine in July 2014, in which all 298 people on board were killed.

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) presented its findings first to the victims’ families and relatives and then to the media at the Gilze-Rijen military base in the Netherlands.

Relatives of the victims have confirmed that the DSB reports concluded that the MH17 was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile, The Guardian reported.

Speaking to reporters in the Hague after being shown early copies of the report, relatives also revealed that all the passengers died or lost consciousness as soon as the missile hit. Buk missile shrapnel was found inside the bodies of some of the crew members.

The investigators are due to release an animated simulation of what they think happened to MH17.

Barry Sweeney, whose son Liam died in the crash, told BBC that according to investigators, the cockpit was hit first and broke off from the rest of the plane.

“It hit the cockpit first, killing all three in the cockpit. The cockpit then broke off probably creating confusion in the rest of the plane. Hopefully most people were unconscious by the time this happened.”

“We can’t be 100 percent sure (that nobody suffered on the flight) but we’ve got to sort of think that was the case.”

He said investigators concluded that the missile was fired from a 320 km.sq. area.

Sweeney said the relatives would have to wait for the criminal report early next year to find out more about what happened.

The flight was en route from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and was travelling over the conflict-hit Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 when it came down. Those killed in the crash comprised 283 passengers – of which 80 were children – and 15 crew members.

(IANS)

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Burundi Blocks Broadcasts from VOA, BBC and Expand Restrictions on their Operations

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, said the news organizations were banned for spreading falsehoods

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burundi, VOA, BBC
Television director of Burundi's National Radio and Television, Nestor Bankumukunzi, poses in the studio in Bujumbura on May 15,2015. VOA

Burundi will continue to block broadcasts from two international media organizations and expand restrictions on their operations, the government announced Friday.

At a meeting in Bujumbura, the president of the National Council of Communication, Nestor Bankumukunzi, said the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Voice of America are no longer allowed to broadcast, effective immediately. The ban is indefinite and extends to journalists, both foreign and domestic, who provide information to either broadcaster.

“We are alarmed that reporters in Burundi are now forbidden to communicate with VOA and believe these continuing threats to our journalists undermine press freedom in the country,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said. “We stand with the people of Burundi against those who are restricting their access to accurate and reliable news and information.”

BBC, VOA, burundi
The BBC condemned the decision, calling it “a serious blow against media freedom.” VOA

The BBC condemned the decision, calling it “a serious blow against media freedom.”

Last May, the Burundi government suspended both news organizations for six months, a week before holding a referendum on a new constitution. The outlets have been off the air since.

Rachel Nicholson, a researcher for Amnesty International, said Burundi’s government is angry at the broadcasters for different reasons.

The government was upset by a documentary the BBC broadcast last year, she said, about members of Burundi’s intelligence service operating secret sites where dissidents are detained and tortured.

BBC, VOA, burundi
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza speaks after signing for a new constitution adopted by a referendum in Bugendana, Burundi, on June 7, 2018. The change will allow Nkurunziza to run for office twice more in seven-year terms from 2020. VOA

Burundi has accused VOA of employing a journalist who opposes the government, Nicholson added. Patrick Nduwimana, the former director of Bonesha FM Radio in Burundi, is “wanted for participating in deadly violence that preceded the May attempted coup,” the National Council of Communications wrote in Friday’s statement.

“I think it’s really worrying to see the government personalize attacks on radio stations. They have such an important role to play, particularly BBC and VOA, particularly in the absence of independent Burundian radio stations operating from within the country,” Amnesty’s Nicholson said. “The BBC and VOA have such an important role to play in sharing information with people in Burundi.”

In a phone interview with VOA, Willy Nyamitwe, senior adviser to Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, said the news organizations were banned for spreading falsehoods.

 

VOA, BBC, burundi
“We are alarmed that reporters in Burundi are now forbidden to communicate with VOA and believe these continuing threats to our journalists undermine press freedom in the country,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said. VOA

“Some international media are biased. Everybody knows some reports were fake reports, fake news,” Nyamitwe said. “So if people cannot even try to speak the truth, but if some people are using some media outlets only to spread lies, what other comments do I have to do?”

Nyamitwe also said that Burundi has an open media landscape and that all countries have the right to ban news organizations that spread lies. “There are thousands of journalists in the country. There are tens of media houses, radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, media online.

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“So I think people are exaggerating thinking that there’s no media houses in the country,” he said. “I do know that even in the United States there are some media houses that have been called biased or fake news media houses.”

In its 2018 press freedom report, Reporters Without Borders ranked Burundi 159th out of 180 countries worldwide. It said security forces routinely harass journalists and pointed to the unsolved 2016 disappearance of journalist Jean Bigirimana as evidence of intimidation and violence against reporters. (VOA)