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Burkina Faso’s media regulator suspends BBC Africa and Voice of America

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The Burkinabe authorities should immediately lift the suspension of BBC Africa and Voice of America, and reverse the directive seeking to control local outlets’ coverage, said the Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday.

 (26.04.2024) – On Thursday, the Superior Council of Communication (CSC), Burkina Faso’s media regulator, suspended the British government-funded BBC Afrique and U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America from broadcasting for two weeks, according to a CSC statement and news reports. The CSC said the suspensions were “precautionary measures” in response to the outlets’ reporting on allegations of misconduct by the Burkinabe army, detailed in a report by the global Human Rights Watch (HRW) rights group.

The CSC also ordered internet service providers to block access to the BBC Africa and Voice of America’s websites, and asked Burkinabe media not to relay the content of the Human Rights Watch report under penalty of “sanctions provided for by the laws in force.”

“The Burkinabe authorities must immediately lift the suspension of BBC Africa and Voice of America and refrain from censoring local journalists and media outlets,” said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program, in New York. “The army’s conduct cannot be a taboo subject. Burkinabe citizens have the right to be informed on all matters of public interest in the military response to the security crisis in their country.”

According to the HRW report, the Burkinabe army had killed 223 civilians in the country’s north in retaliation for attacks by armed Islamist fighters. In its statement, the CSC said the Voice of America and BBC Africa broadcasts constituted “disinformation likely to discredit the Burkinabe army.” 

In an April 26 statement, Voice of America said that it “stands by its reporting” and “intends to continue to fully and fairly cover activities in the country.” A BBC spokesperson told CPJ that “the suspension reduces BBC’s ability to reach audiences with independent and accurate news” and it will continue to report on the region in the public interest and without fear or favor.

Burkina Faso is ruled by a military regime led by Ibrahim Traoré, who seized power during a September 2022 coup amid an insurgency by Islamist armed groups.

Previously, Burkinabe authorities suspended several international media outlets for reporting on military misconduct allegations and in November sought to conscript two journalists into the military.

Reached via a messaging application, Blahima Traoré, CSC’s general secretary referred CPJ to the CSC’s decision and did not elaborate further.

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