Radio station silenced by Burkina Faso’s military must be allowed to resume broadcasting, says RSF
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an end to the repeated threats and harassment of Radio Oméga, an independent radio station in Burkina Faso that has been suspended by its military junta for interviewing an opponent of the military junta in neighbouring Niger.
Suspended until further order on 10 August, Radio Oméga announced five days later that it was appealing against the measure to the Council of State, Burkina Faso’s highest administrative court. RSF welcomes this initiative and encourages all local media to resist the junta’s press freedom violations.
The fourth media outlet to be suspended in less than a year in Burkina Faso, Radio Oméga was shut down on the same day it broadcast an interview with Ousmane Abdoul Moumouni, the spokesman of the Republic Resistance Council (CRR), a group that supports the president who was deposed in neighbouring Niger on 26 July. The journalist who conducted the interview, Abdoul Fhatave Tiemtoré, was summoned by State Security the next day (11 August) and was questioned for five hours.
The junta’s decision to silence Radio Oméga was immediately condemned by Burkina Faso’s Professional Media Organisations as “illegal” and as the “latest of many intrusions into media regulation.” Under Burkina Faso law, only the country’s media regulator, the Superior Council for Communication (CSC), has the power to suspend a media outlet. It was on these grounds that Radio Oméga has appealed to the Council of State.
The Sahel’s military juntas have difficulty accepting any dissent from the media, as shown by the arbitrary and illegal suspension of Burkina Faso’s Radio Oméga, which has always fulfilled its role in the local media landscape by reporting the news. By silencing one of the country’s most popular radio stations, the junta is trying to impose a narrative that is biased in its favour while the population needs a diverse media landscape with reliable, independent news reporting. We ask the Council of State to order a resumption of broadcasting at Radio Oméga so that its journalists can go back to work without fear of reprisals.
Created in 2011, Radio Oméga is a member of the Oméga Médias group, which includes a TV channel and digital platforms that are not affected by the suspension. The group has a significant media presence, employing around 100 people at its TV and radio stations in the capital, Ouagadougou, and in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city (in the southwest of the country).
Since the military coup in September 2022, Radio Oméga has been targeted and its journalists have been threatened without any protective measures being taken by the police or judicial authorities and without any condemnation by them. Alain Traoré, one of its commentators, filed a complaint against a person unknown on 13 October 2022 after receiving death threats in the form of audio messages in WhatsApp groups. The author accused him of “lacking respect for the people” in his broadcasts.
On 18 October 2022, the Oméga group filed a complaint about messages circulating on social media calling for its premises to be “torched.” And Radio Oméga journalist Lamine Traoré and two Burkinabe colleagues were subjected to a particularly aggressive smear campaign in April 2023.
RSF’s report on journalism in Africa’s Sahel region, published in April, describes how the Sahel’s military juntas have not hesitated to reshape the media landscape to better serve their interests.
The latest victims include LCI, a French 24-hour TV news channel broadcasting by satellite in Burkina Faso, which was suspended for three months on 29 June. The French state-owned international TV news broadcaster France 24 has been suspended indefinitely in Burkina Faso since 27 March, while its radio counterpart, Radio France Internationale (RFI), has been suspended since 3 December 2022. The French correspondents of the French publications Monde Afrique and Libération were expelled in April.