Burkina Faso Suspends More Media Outlets Over Report of Army Killings

Burkina Faso suspends French TV, blocks news sites amid allegations of army killing civilians. Raises concerns about press freedom and reporting on human rights abuses in conflict-torn country.

Israel Ojoko
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Burkina Faso Suspends Media Outlets Over Report of Army Killings

Burkina Faso Suspends Media Outlets Over Report of Army Killings

Burkina Faso has suspended the French TV network TV5Monde and blocked the websites of several international news media, including Le Monde, The Guardian, and Deutsche Welle, in response to a Human Rights Watch report accusing the Burkinabe army of killing at least 223 civilians in two attacks on February 25, 2023.

The military government has dismissed the claims as "unfounded" and said a legal inquiry has been opened to establish the facts.

The country's media regulator, the CSC, has also directed internet service providers to suspend transmissions by the BBC, Voice of America, and Human Rights Watch from Burkinabe territory for two weeks. The government accused the media of orchestrating a "campaign" to discredit the country's fighting forces, which have been battling a jihadist insurgency since 2015.

Why this matters: The media restrictions in Burkina Faso raise concerns about press freedom and the ability to report on alleged human rights abuses in the conflict-ridden country. The situation highlights the challenges faced by journalists covering sensitive issues in regions grappling with insurgencies and military rule.

Human Rights Watch described the alleged massacre as "among the worst army abuse in Burkina Faso since 2015" and said the killings "appear to be part of a widespread military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist armed groups."

The violence in the region has worsened due to the decade-long fight with armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL, with more than 8,000 people reportedly killed in Burkina Faso in 2023 according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Press freedom groups have condemned the media suspensions, calling them a "blow to press freedom" in the country, which was once lauded as a regional leader in media freedom. The UN Human Rights Office expressed concern over the restrictions, stating that "restrictions on media freedom and civic space must stop immediately."

The Burkinabe government spokesperson has rejected the Human Rights Watch allegations as "peremptory" and denied that the authorities are unwilling to investigate the alleged atrocities, stating that a judicial investigation has been opened. "The government of Burkina Faso has strongly rejected these 'unfounded accusations,'" the spokesperson said. The suspensions come just one week ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2024.

Key Takeaways

  • Burkina Faso suspends French TV network, blocks websites of int'l media.
  • Govt accuses media of "campaign" to discredit army amid jihadist insurgency.
  • HRW alleges army killed 223 civilians; govt calls claims "unfounded".
  • Press freedom groups condemn media suspensions as "blow to press freedom".
  • Restrictions come ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2024.