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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale

Burkina Faso suspends French media outlet, accuses it of 'discrediting' military

Burkina Faso's junta leader Captain Ibrahim Traore meeting Russian President in Strel'na outside Saint Petersburg on July 29, 2023. AFP - ALEXEY DANICHEV

Burkina Faso's junta-led government has suspended the print and online operations of French news outlet Jeune Afrique in the country, accusing it of seeking to "discredit" the military. The publication has openly protested against the move, calling it "censorship from another age".

The government in Ouagadougou has suspended "all Jeune Afrique distribution media in Burkina Faso until further notice", its spokesman and communications minister Rimtalba Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in a statement on Monday.

Founded in 1960 and based in France, Jeune Afrique is a website and monthly magazine with several correspondents and contributors in Africa and elsewhere.

He blamed "a new and misleading article...titled 'Tensions persist in Burkina Faso army' which was published on Monday".

"This publication follows an earlier article by the same newspaper on the same website", published on Thursday, "in which Jeune Afrique alleged that 'Discontent is growing in Burkina Faso barracks'," the statement added.

No-news zone

"These deliberate assertions, made without the slightest hint of proof, have no other purpose than to discredit the national armed forces and, by extension, all fighting forces in an unacceptable manner."

Jeune Afrique, in a statement on Tuesday, called the move "another attack on freedom of information" in a country that saw the murder of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo in 1998.

It also condemned what it termed "censorship from another age" and said it hoped the authorities would reconsider the ban.

The suspension, it said, was also another small step towards helping turn the region and Burkina in particular into a no-news zone.

The cover of "Jeune Afrique" magazine, August 2022 (illustration) © revue Jeune Afrique

Growing discontent

Some people interviewed by French news agency AFP in Ouagadougou still had access to the Jeune Afrique website, while others said they had problems connecting.

Since taking power in a coup in 2022, the junta has suspended multiple TV and radio stations, expelled foreign correspondents and targeted French media.

In June, Burkina Faso authorities announced the suspension of the French television channel LCI for three months, after expelling the correspondents of the French dailies Liberation and Le Monde in April.

At the end of March, they had ordered the suspension of the television channel France 24.

The two coups of 2022 were each triggered in part by discontent at failures to stem a jihadist insurgency which has left more than 17,000 people dead and more than two million internally displaced since 2015.

Regional instability has also fuelled recent military takeovers in neighbouring Mali and Niger.

Anti-French sentiment

The succession of coups in the Sahel region has alarmed Western governments, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Anti-Paris sentiment has been inflamed in the three countries – all former French colonies – with military rulers strengthening ties with Russia.

Earlier this month, the juntas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger signed a mutual defence pact, to "establish an architecture of collective defence and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations".

France withdrew its troops and ambassador from Burkina Faso earlier this year in the face of post-coup hostility.

Junta chief Captain Ibrahim Traore this month gave an interview saying Burkina was not "the enemy of the French people" but of the policies of its government.

"We have to accept seeing each other as equals... and accept an overhaul of our entire cooperation," he told state television.

(with AFP)

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