Burkina Faso Blocks Access to Nine More News Sites, Bringing Banned Media Total to 13

Capitain Ibrahim Traoré, Transitional President of Burkina Faso
press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an alarming decline in press freedom in Burkina Faso, whose military junta suspended access to nine international news outlets in the space of 48 hours for covering a Human Rights Watch report about an alleged massacre by the army. A total of 13 international media are now banned in this West African nation.

The latest victims of the junta's ban on providing or sharing news serving the general interest include the French international TV news broadcaster TV5Monde. Burkina Faso's media regulator, the Superior Council for Communication (CSC), announced on 27 April that local retransmission of TV5Monde's programming has been suspended for two weeks.

Access to TV5Monde's news website has also been blocked until further notice for the same reason, because the French public broadcaster covered a Human Rights Watch report claiming that Burkina Faso's army summarily executed at least 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in two northern villages on 25 February.

The news sites of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, three British and French newspapers – The Guardian, Ouest-France and Le Monde – and two news agencies – the Agence de Presse Africaine and Ecofin – were also blocked until further notice on 27 April for covering the US human rights NGO's report.

Access to the French-language broadcasts by the BBC and Voice of America were suspended for two weeks for the same reason on 25 April. These latest nine suspensions bring the total of banned international news outlets to 13.

"Almost ten media were shut down in the space of 48 hours – a shocking number showing how far the authorities are ready to go in violating the right to news and information. We condemn these serious and arbitrary decisions and remind the authorities that serving the public interest by covering the security situation in the country must not be used as grounds for the worst attacks on the media in recent months. We urge them to rescind these decisions and to immediately lift the blocking of access to the websites of all the targeted media, in order to allow the public to access pluralistic news reporting."
Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF's Sub-Saharan Africa bureau

The CSC statement accused TV5Monde of "peremptory and tendentious statements against the Burkinabé army, without any precaution," which it said, "constitutes disinformation likely to bring discredit to the Burkinabé army."

TV5Monde responded with a statement deploring the "temporary suspension of its programmes in Burkina Faso as well as the suspension of access to its websites, without having been informed beforehand." It said its coverage of the HRW report was carried out "according to the most rigorous journalistic rules and with the usual precautions," and that "the authorities of Burkina Faso were able to express their point of view."

Pressure on international media

The military junta led by Capt. Ibrahim Traoré has been conducting an increasingly hostile policy towards the media, especially foreign media. Since taking power in a coup in September 2022, it suspended local broadcasting by the French public radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI) "until further notice" in December 2022, it did the same with the French TV news channel France 24 in March 2023, it suspended the French 24-hour TV news channel LCI for three months from July 2023 and it suspended the French-language news magazine Jeune Afrique in September 2023.

What these media outlets have in common is their coverage of subjects linked to Burkina Faso's fight against terrorism or the presence of tension within the army. Capt. Traoré announced on the national radio and TV broadcaster RTB on 31 August 2023 that he would close media outlets that "carry the enemy's propaganda" instead of the "patriotic" news coverage that he prefers.

Sophie Douce and Agnès Faivre, the correspondents of the French media outlets Monde Afrique and Libération, respectively, were deported in April 2023 after investigating the alleged murders of children in a military camp.

Media regulation was completely overhauled in a disturbing new law in November that allows the president to personally choose who runs the CSC.

...and on local media

What with being persecuted and asphyxiated economically, the national media are no better off. Two journalists critical of the junta were conscripted into the army's fight against terrorism in November 2023. The authorities disconnected Radio Oméga's signal for 30 days from 10 August 2023 for broadcasting an interview with an opponent of the military junta in neighbouring Niger.

And in a move condemned by national media organisations, the headquarters of the Savane media group, which includes the country's most popular radio station, Radio Savane FM, was shuttered and placed under seal on 24 April for failing to pay taxes.

Burkina Faso is ranked 58th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.

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