Burkina Faso Junta Bans BBC, VOA From Broadcasting

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Burkina Faso Junta-led government has temporarily halted the transmission of the BBC and Voice of America radio networks due to the broadcast of a report alleging the army’s involvement in attacks on civilians during the fight against jihadists.

Bellnews reports that the BBC and Voice of America are among the recent international media outlets affected by the actions taken since Captain Ibrahim Traore assumed control of the West African nation in a coup in September 2022.

The communications authority (CSC) announced in a statement late Thursday that “the programmes of these two international radio networks broadcasting from Ouagadougou have been suspended for a period of two weeks.”

It further explained that the decision to suspend BBC Africa and VOA was made due to the broadcasting and publication of a report on their digital platforms accusing the Burkina army of abuses against the civilian population.

The CSC criticized the report for containing hasty and biased declarations without concrete evidence against the Burkinabe army.

Human Rights Watch reported that soldiers in Burkina Faso’s jihadist-hit north had killed at least 223 villagers, including 56 children, in two revenge attacks on February 25.

Burkinabe authorities have not responded to the allegations when contacted by AFP.

Bellnews reports that the country has been facing attacks from groups associated with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State since a jihadist insurgency spilt over from neighbouring Mali in 2015, resulting in approximately 20,000 deaths and around two million displaced individuals.

VOA said on Friday it had sought reactions to the HRW report “from several Burkinabe officials” but received no response and intended “to continue to cover activities in the country fully and fairly.”

Junta’s Official Warning

The Communications Authority of Burkina Faso has instructed internet service providers to block access to the websites and digital platforms of the BBC, VOA, and HRW within the country.

The authority criticized the BBC and VOA for spreading disinformation that could harm the Burkinabe army’s reputation and potentially lead to public disorder.

Media outlets were warned against sharing the controversial content, with the threat of sanctions for those who disobey.

It could be recalled that Burkina Faso has previously taken action against French media organizations, including suspensions, bans, and expulsions of foreign journalists.

Since Traore came to power, Burkina Faso has been moving away from its former colonial ruler, France, which controlled the country until 1960.

In recent months, the government has suspended the operations of French media outlet Jeune Afrique and French TV channel LCI due to articles that caused tensions within the military.

In March 2023, the France 24 news channel’s broadcasts were suspended, following the earlier suspension of Radio France Internationale (RFI). This action was prompted by the accusation that both public media outlets had been relaying messages from jihadist leaders.

The subsequent month witnessed the expulsion of correspondents from French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde.

However, Sadibou Marong, a representative from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has strongly criticized the suspensions of VOA and BBC, deeming them as “abusive” and a clear violation of the right to information.

According to Marong, the media outlets had merely disseminated “information of general interest for the Burkinabe population.”

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