GASABO - A planned meeting between a Burundian embassy staff led by Serge Karonkano and two journalists from The New Times turned ugly when the diplomats insulted, held hostage and tried to manhandle the journalists.
According to embassy’s imaginary charge sheet, the reporters’ crime was that they failed to mention the Ambassador in the newspaper.
The reporters were yesterday held hostage at the Burundian Embassy in Kacyiru for allegedly not mentioning his Excellency Serge Karonkano during celebrations to mark Africa Day.
The journalists who faced the diplomatic wrath are long serving senior political reporter Edwin Musoni and news reporter Irene V. Nambi.
Drama unfolded when an official at the Embassy who only identified himself as the First Secretary called the reporters on the pretext that he was going to give them information.
According to the two reporters, the invitation instead turned out to be in connection with an article “Peace vital for Africa’s development- Museminali” which ran on Thursday, May 28, 2009 about the celebrations that took place at the South African Ambassador’s residence.
“Upon arrival at the Embassy, the Secretary immediately started accusing us for not quoting his boss (The Burundian Ambassador) Serge Karonkano in our previous story,” said Nambi.
She added that the Secretary hastened to add that his boss was not amused by the fact that his name did not appear anywhere in the story that had run the previous day yet he is the dean of African envoys accredited to Rwanda.
During the celebrations held at the residence of the South African Ambassador, Karonkano addressed the gathering as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister Rosemary Museminali and South African Ambassador, Aladstone Dumisani Awadiso. Only the two were quoted.
“At the embassy we clearly explained that if the appointment was about a previous story then we had no authority to comment on it since it is the property of The New Times and requested that the embassy deals with the management instead,” said Musoni.
“The official however, vehemently refused to accept our suggestion despite efforts to emphasise that The New Times management is in a better position to handle the matter.”
The journalists also explained that Karonkano later stormed the First Secretary’s office and started harassing them verbally, insulting their integrity as journalists and questioned their company’s professionalism.
“He ordered us to explain why we did not include his name in the story claiming that he gave us a hard copy of his speech purposely to be quoted,” said Musoni.
The Ambassador alleged that The New Times had a grudge against his country because back in December, it deliberately ‘cropped’ him off a photo and only showed people next to him.
According to the reporters, the First Secretary then ordered the security officials to lock up all the exits of the embassy, forcing the journalists to stay at the embassy’s premises against their will. When the journalists tried to walk out, the Intersec guard roughly pushed Musoni back.
The First Secretary whose name couldn’t be readily available told the reporters that they (Embassy) can do anything to them (journalists) as they were on Burundian territory.
Efforts to get a comment from Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali and Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, were futile as they couldn’t pick up our calls.
Musoni and Nambi were later ‘released’ after top managers of the newspaper intervened.