Burkina Faso: RSF condemns increase in threats, violence against journalists

Besséri Ouattara, correspondant du quotidien L’Express du Faso dans la ville de Banfora et Luc Pagbelguem, journaliste reporter d’images à la télévision BF1.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the latest cases of threatening and aggressive behaviour towards journalists in Burkina Faso – death threats by a sports official and use of physical violence by a member of the prime minister's security. The authorities must carry out an investigation and ensure that these press freedom violations stop, RSF says.

The threats that Besséri Ouattara, a sports reporter for the L’Express du Faso newspaper in the southwestern city of Banfora, received on 24 May must be taken seriously by the authorities. They were made by Brahima Traoré, a local sports official also known as AECO, who gave Ouattara three days to leave the city for reporting that the regional football team's players were refusing to play in the national football cup semi-final in a protest over unpaid salaries and bonuses.

Five days before that, on 19 May, BF1 TV cameraman Luc Pagbelguem was filming Prime Minister Albert Ouédraogo at public event in the capital, Ouagadougou, when a member of the prime minister's security suddenly grabbed him and forced him to descend from a platform with such violence that he nearly dropped his camera and other equipment. The security official did not explain this use of force against Pagbelguem, who was one of several journalists on the platform filming the event.

"These death threats and this use of physical violence are the latest examples of the increasingly frequent attacks against journalists in Burkina Faso and join the long list of press freedom violations in this country," said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF's West Africa bureau. "The authorities must react without delay in order to end these violations. An impartial investigation must be carried out in order to punish those responsible and to protect journalists in the course of their work."

A joint statement issued on 26 May by 13 journalists' associations and media defence groups condemned the two latest cases and "the increasingly deafening silence from the highest levels and from the authorities about attacks against journalists."

Relations between the security forces and media have deteriorated since the army mutiny that led to the coup on 24 January. A journalist was injured and two others were briefly detained during the mutiny. At a meeting with media owners on 19 February, the head of the new military junta, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, nonetheless said the junta was committed to ensuring freedom of the press.

"This context of a regime that is neither purely military nor democratic seems to be seen by some as an opportunity to settle scores with journalists," said Idrissa Birba, the head of the human rights group NDH-Burkina.

Fanny Noaro-Kabré, the French TV network TV5Monde's correspondent in Burkina Faso, was expelled by the polemical writer and activist Sémi Kéba from the public event she was covering at the "House of the People" in Ouagadougou on 14 May. Her expulsion was condemned by the communication ministry and press organisations.

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