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Burkina Faso bans French radio for airing 'terrorist propaganda'

RFI has protested the ban, calling Burkina Faso's accusations unfounded   -  
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Kilaye Bationo/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved.

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso on Saturday ordered "the immediate suspension and until further notice" of Radio France Internationale (RFI), accusing it of having relayed an "intimidation message" attributed to a "terrorist leader", the Burkinabe government spokesman announced.

By having relayed this message, RFI "is thus contributing to a desperate manoeuvre by terrorist groups to dissuade the thousands of Burkinabè mobilised in defence of their country," said a statement signed by the spokesman, Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo.

At the beginning of the week, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM, affiliated to Al-Qaeda), had broadcast a video in which one of its leaders in Burkina Faso threatened to attack villages defended by Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland (VDP), civilian auxiliaries of the army, which has just recruited 90,000 in three weeks to cope with the increase in jihadist attacks.

The government also criticizes RFI, a French public radio, for having included in its press review on Friday "a misleading information, indicating that: +The president of the transition, Captain Ibrahim Traore, assures that an attempted coup d'état has targeted his power".

The communiqué recalled that "on 3 November, the government had already expressed its indignation at the tendentious attitude of journalists of this media (RFI) and their propensity to discredit the struggle in which the Burkinabe people are engaged for more freedom and dignity.

"In view of the above, the government has decided to suspend Radio France Internationale's broadcasting throughout the country until further notice," he added.

The management of RFI "deeply regrets this decision and protests against the totally unfounded accusations that call into question the professionalism of its stations," it said in a statement on Saturday evening.

"The decision to cut off RFI's broadcasting service was taken without prior notice and without implementing the procedures laid down in the RFI broadcasting agreement drawn up by Burkina Faso's Higher Council for Communication," it said.

It added that the France Médias Monde group, to which RFI belongs, "will explore all avenues to restore RFI's broadcasting, and reiterates its unwavering commitment to the freedom to inform and the professional work of its journalists.

According to RFI's management, the radio station is heard every week in Burkina Faso "by more than 40% of the population and more than 70% of opinion leaders.

An AFP journalist in Ouagadougou noted late this afternoon that the radio station could no longer be heard.

The government nonetheless "reaffirmed to national and international opinion its commitment to press freedom and freedom of opinion" and "the public's right to information", but "invites it to respect the rules and principles governing the media.

The government nonetheless "reaffirmed to national and international opinion its commitment to press freedom and freedom of opinion" and "the public's right to information", but "calls for respect for the rules and principles laid down in this area in our country".

Burkina, the scene of two military coups in eight months and plagued by jihadist violence since 2015, is the second country in the region to ban RFI this year after Mali, which was also ruled by military putschists and hit by jihadists, in March.

"Nerves are frayed, but muzzling or persecuting the press does not turn lies into truth," said Newton Ahmed Barry, a journalist and former president of the National Electoral Commission (CEN).

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