Freedom of the Press 2010

Freedom Of The Press - Burkina Faso (2010)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 13
Political Environment: 15
Economic Environment: 13
Total Score: 41

  • Although freedom of speech is protected by the constitution, in practice journalists occasionally face harassment by the authorities for coverage that is deemed too critical, and many practice self-censorship.
  • Libel laws are unfavorable to the press and place the burden of proof on the defendant. Businessmen and political elites have occasionally used these laws against journalists in court.
  • The state-operated media are noticeably progovernment, and self-censorship is common. To avoid aggravating public authorities, state-run outlets generally refrain from covering controversial subjects, though programming allows for coverage of the opposition. Conversely, the private media are generally free of overt censorship, criticize the government, and investigate more sensitive topics.
  • Burkina Faso’s media regulatory body, the Higher Communication Council (HCC), consists of 12 members appointed by the government and has been criticized for inconsistent and mismanaged licensing procedures.
  • In October 2009, the HCC ordered the suspension of the privately owned, Ouagadougou-based television station TVZ Africa. While technical reasons were given for the suspension, local media groups criticized the decision as an attack on press freedom.
  • Journalists sometimes face physical harassment and threats. In February 2009, several journalists at Le Reporter and a writer for L’Evenement received an anonymous letter, threatening to harm the journalists if they continued reporting on official corruption. Pressure to reopen the highly politicized investigation into the 1998 assassination of journalist Norbert Zongo continued in 2009, though no progress had been made by year’s end.
  • Radio is the most popular news medium, owing to the country’s literacy rate of only 26 percent and the high cost of newspapers and television sets. There are several private radio stations in addition to the state-run Radio Burkina, and a small number of private television stations broadcast alongside the state-run Television Nationale du Burkina.
  • Several private daily and weekly papers circulate in addition to Sidwaya, the official daily paper.
  • Private media ownership lacks transparency.
  • Infrastructural deficiencies and poverty limited access to the internet to just over 1 percent of the population in 2009, but there were no reported restrictions on content.