ARTICLE 19 calls on the Burkinabe authorities to immediately cease the crackdown on French media outlets and uphold their obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression. It is essential they guarantee the safety and security of journalists, both local and foreign, and to ensure that they are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals.
The escalating crackdown on French media outlets in Burkina Faso is deeply troubling. The recent suspension of La Chaine Info TV news channel (LCI), which follows the suspension of France 24 and Radio France International (RFI), as well as journalists from Libération and Le Monde newspapers, raise serious alarms regarding the state of media freedom in the country.
‘The recurrent bans on foreign media in Burkina Faso from December 2022 to now is of deep concern. Open government, including during a transition period, needs and must tolerate plurality of opinions in media, including criticism. Attempts to stifle or suppress media outlets expose a fear of truth and transparency. The fight against terrorism is not incompatible with a free press and the right to information. Embracing press freedom and allowing journalists to work without fear or intimidation, and fostering an environment where diverse viewpoints can flourish are commitments to the principles that underpin a free and just society. We invite the transition authority to safeguard these principles,’ said Bulakali Alfred Nkuru, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal and West Africa
Legal frameworks and international norms
Burkina Faso is a party to several international and regional instruments that guarantee freedom of the press. These include Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These instruments recognise and protect the right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the media. Principles 11 of the Declaration of principles on freedom of expression and access to information in Africa invite States to take positive measures to promote a diverse and pluralistic media, which shall facilitate, among others, the promotion of free flow of information and ideas.
Thus, any restriction on freedom of the press must be legal, have legitimate grounds which can include matters of national security, public order, public health, or the reputation of others, and must be proportionate. In each case, Burkinabe authorities must demonstrate that the suspensions and expulsions of foreign media outlets are necessary and proportionate to achieve these legitimate objectives. In many situations, a warning or formal notice could have been more proportionate than a direct sanction such as banning and suspending journalists and media outlets.
With the same aim of proportionality in mind, it is worth noting that authorities have the option of using their right to reply. By asking the relevant media outlet to publish their version of events and the facts as they see them, authorities can enable the public to judge the situation themselves and come to their own conclusions regarding the matter under review.
Furthermore, French media outlets should not be treated in a discriminatory manner when compared to national or other foreign media present in Burkina Faso. The principle of non-discrimination requires that all media, whether national or foreign, be treated equally and enjoy the same rights and protections regarding freedom of the press.
The government claims to uphold the fundamental principles of freedom of expression and opinion, but their actions contradict this.
In a statement issued on 23 July, the Conseil supérieur de la communication (CSC), the regulatory authority for public communication in Burkina Faso, stated that LCI had been ‘ suspended for a period of 3 months in Burkina Faso from any platform offering any pay-TV packages’ with immediate effect.
An episode of the programme 24h Pujadas, l’info en question aired on 25 April, 2023 featured journalist Abnousse Shalmani discussing the security crisis in the Sahel region, including specific information about Burkina Faso. Authorities claimed the information she shared had the potential to create unease among the population and hinder the necessary cooperation required to effectively address ongoing challenges during the period of transition.
Prior to this, the government expelled correspondents from prominent French newspapers Libération and Le Monde on 1 April, and subsequently ordered indefinite suspension of France 24 television channel in late March, following the earlier suspension of RFI in December 2022.
Local media has also been targeted. For instance, On 6 June, authorities closed down the investigative Burkinabè newspaper L’Événement in connection with tax litigation, a decision that was condemned by the Société des éditeurs de la presse privée (SEP). Together, these actions call into question the government’s true commitment to safeguarding principles of freedom of expression and a free press.
For more information, please contact:
Maateuw Mbaye, Program Assistant, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa Email: [email protected] T: +221785958337
Aissata Diallo Dieng, Office Manager, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa Email: [email protected] T:+221338690322