Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the arrests of three suspects in the newly revived investigation into journalist Norbert Zongo’s murder in 1998 and urges Burkina Faso’s judicial authorities to press ahead with their investigation and, in particular, to identify the murder’s instigators.
The three suspects arrested and charged on 12 December are former members of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), which protected President Blaise Compaoré until his fall from power last year. “These arrests send a strong signal of the new authorities’ determination to combat impunity,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The justice system must keep going and must do whatever is necessary to unmask those behind this murder. After 17 years, the leading suspects have died and the instigators have yet to be identified.” The editor of the weekly L’Indépendant, Zongo was found murdered in December 1998, shortly after he had begun investigating the death in detention of David Ouédraogo, who was the driver of François Compaoré, the then president’s brother and adviser. The investigation into Zongo’s murder was reopened in March, four months after President Compaoré’s departure, but had made little progress until now despite a 5 June ruling by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights calling on Burkina Faso to resume the investigation. RSF has closely followed the investigation from the outset. Ever since the creation of an initial commission of enquiry six day’s after Zongo’s death, RSF had repeatedly criticized the Compaoré administration’s interference in the judicial process. In 2001, RSF filed a complaint against President Compaoré in France, accusing him of torture, but the French judicial authorities closed the case without taking any action. After the Zongo murder investigation was closed in Burkina Faso in 2006, RSF tried unsuccessfully to get it reopened by submitting new evidence. Burkina Faso is ranked 46th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.