French media outlet Jeune Afrique "protested" on Tuesday against the suspension of its broadcasting in Burkina Faso announced the day before by the country's government, following the publication of articles evoking tensions within the Burkinabe army.
For the past year, the Burkinabe regime, led by the military after two coups d'état in 2022, has temporarily or indefinitely suspended the broadcasting of several television and radio channels, and expelled foreign correspondents, notably from French media.
This suspension "is yet another attack on freedom of information in a country, that of Norbert Zongo", wrote Jeune Afrique in a press release, referring to the Burkinabe journalist murdered in 1998.
The media organization also denounced "censorship from another age, while hoping that its authors will reconsider it", asserting that it "contributes a little more to making the region, and Burkina Faso in particular, a zone of non-information".
It was suspended for publishing what was described as “untruthful” articles that reported tension and discontent within the armed forces.
"This is not the first decision of its kind by the government. There was the suspension of RFI, France 24, LCI, and also of a widely listened to national radio station. Expulsions of correspondents, threats against local journalists, including our own correspondent, who had to leave the country. So obviously no. This is a serious attack on the right of the people of Burkina Faso to be informed and of journalists to do their work as rigourously as possible."
The suspension Monday followed the publication of a second article in four days … this one titled 'Tensions persist in Burkina Faso army'.
The government accused the magazine of seeking to discredit the armed forces and manipulating information to "spread chaos", Marwane Ben Yahmed, Jeune Afrique publishing director.
"This investigation was published, it is the fruit of a long investigation of cross-checked testimonies, to the point that there were rallies in Ouagadougou last night called for by junta supporters, believing that army soldiers wanted to overthrow Ibrahim Traoré. So this is proof that, on the one hand, we were right. And besides, whatever the accusations of intent, there are legal avenues, the right of reply, including the possibility of taking legal action."
On Monday evening, Burkina Faso's transitional government announced "the suspension until further notice of all Jeune Afrique distribution outlets in Burkina Faso as of this Monday, September 25". In a press release, the authorities justify their decision by the publication of "a new misleading article on the Jeune Afrique website, entitled: Au Burkina Faso, toujours des tensions au sein de l'armée".
"This publication follows an earlier article on the same site", published on Thursday, "in which Jeune Afrique alleged that in Burkina Faso, discontent is rising in the barracks", adds the text, signed by Communication Minister Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouédraogo.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of supporters of the transitional president, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, took to the streets of Ouagadougou to "defend" the regime, following rumors that attempts to destabilize the executive were underway.
"Jeune Afrique is the latest media outlet to be targeted by attacks from Burkina Faso's ruling junta, which is trying to impose its own communications," deplores a statement from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which believes that press freedom "has been reduced to a trickle in the country".
RSF "calls on the transitional government of Captain Ibrahim Traoré to cease these violations and respect the Burkinabe population's right to information". On Tuesday, the Jeune Afrique website was inaccessible without a VPN - a technical means of disguising the origin of one's connection - in Ouagadougou, according to an AFP journalist.
The decision by the Burkinabe authorities comes almost a year after Captain Ibrahim Traoré came to power in a coup d'état, his second in eight months. In June, they announced the suspension of the French TV channel LCI for three months, after expelling the correspondents of the French dailies Libération and Le Monde in April.
According to the government, "these deliberate assertions, made without the slightest hint of proof, have the sole aim of discrediting the national armed forces and, by extension, all fighting forces".
The decision came almost a year after Captain Ibrahim Traore came to power in a coup, the country's second in eight months.
Jeune Afrique has described the suspension as another small step towards turning the region and Burkina Faso in particular into a no-news zone.