Burkina Faso bans more media over coverage of alleged massacre

Estimated read time 3 min read

Authorities in Burkina Faso have suspended further foreign media over their reporting of an alleged massacre of hundreds of civilians by the Burkinabe army.

The decision was announced in a statement over the weekend, days after the military government suspended the BBC, Voice of America and the international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), halting broadcasts and blocking websites, after the latter’s scathing report on Thursday.

HRW accused troops of killing at least 223 people in attacks on two villages in the west African country’s north, near the Mali border, on 25 February. As many as 56 of the victims were reportedly children.

A statement by the Burkinabe authorities said on Monday: “The media campaign orchestrated around these accusations fully shows the unavowed intention … to discredit our fighting forces.”

The Guardian was named in the latest round of suspensions, alongside half a dozen other organisations including the French outlets Le Monde and TV5Monde, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the Swiss-based Agence Ecofin. Access to their websites had been blocked until further notice, the statement said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called the suspensions “grave and abusive decisions”.

HRW had said in its report on Thursday that “these mass killings … appear to be part of a widespread military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist armed groups, and may amount to crimes against humanity”.

It said villagers had said the killings were reprisals for an attack by jihadists at a military camp close to the villages earlier on 25 February.

Late on Saturday, the Burkinabe communications minister, Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo, said the report was baseless and accused HRW of “boundless imagination”.

The suspensions are the latest media restrictions to be imposed by the junta led by Ibrahim Traoré, the 36-year-old who became Africa’s youngest leader after a coup in September 2022.

French media have been particularly targeted as relations between the former colonial power and French-speaking Africa continue to sour.

Traoré’s ascendancy to power came against the backdrop of insurgent violence that began seeping in from neighbouring Mali in 2015 and has precipitated political instability across the Sahel region.

More than 2 million people have been displaced and thousands of civilians and security personnel have been killed in Burkina Faso. Not even the change of political order has extinguished the conflict: there was an uptick in violence in 2023, with 8,000 deaths that year, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled) shows.

This has led to a war against armed non-state actors, and led to the army and state-backed vigilantes reportedly torturing or killing villagers believed to be harbouring or aiding the rebels.

Source: theguardian.com

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