RSF urges Burkina Faso to lift ban on French public broadcaster

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the decision by Burkina Faso’s government to suspend broadcasting by Radio France Internationale (RFI) throughout the country until further notice. Issued on 3 December, the suspension order deprives millions of listeners of their right to information, RSF says.

“This suspension violates freedom of information and the right of millions of Burkinabes to access freely reported news. The security crisis in Burkina Faso should not be used as an excuse to prevent journalists from covering the crisis in a responsible and independent manner. We call on the authorities to reconsider their decision in the name of the public's right to pluralistic reporting.”

Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s Africa bureau

press release signed by the government spokesman accused France’s international public broadcaster of relaying a “message intimidating the population that was attributed to a terrorist leader” and including a “false report” in its 2 December press review, namely that the president of Burkina Faso’s transitional government, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, had said he was the target of a coup attempt.

RFI’s management issued a statement condemning the suspension and the "totally unfounded accusations calling into question the professionalism of its local bureaux.” At the same time, the association of journalists working for the broadcaster said: “RFI’s priorities are and always have been pluralism in the viewpoints its reports and the people it quotes or interviews, scrupulously accurate reporting in the field, and an unfailing attachment to the freedom to inform.”


Media regulator ignored

Many observers in Burkina Faso point out the suspension order violates a law that says the country’s media regulator, the Superior Council for Communication (CSC), has the “exclusive prerogative” of suspending or sanctioning a media outlet. Before “any sanction that becomes a final decision,” the CSC must first hold a hearing and then issue a warning, the law says. The government did not follow this procedure.

The CSC is tasked with ensuring respect for journalistic ethics, promoting freedom of expression and protecting media access to sources of information. But it is currently unable to operate because the country’s president has not yet signed the decree confirming the CSC’s new president in his position. RSF calls on the authorities to remedy this situation by signing the decree without delay.

RFI’s suspension comes against a backdrop of growing threats against Burkina Faso’s journalists. Newton Ahmed Barry, the former editor of the privately-owned newspaper L'Événement, received new threats at the weekend for condemning the suspension. An audio recording circulating on social media in June described him as a “terrorist” who “does not deserve to live."

Burkina Faso is ranked 41st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.