Three journalists kidnapped in ten days in Burkina Faso: the authorities must break their silence

An editor and two columnists have been kidnapped in a ten-day span in Burkina Faso. The authorities have yet to provide a single comment on these disappearances, one of which was allegedly carried out by the country’s secret service. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the authorities to end their silence.

The silence is deafening: nine days after Serge Oulon, editor of the newspaper L'Événement, was abducted by a group of armed men claiming to be from the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), his family and friends still have no news of his state or whereabouts. His lawyer, Batis Benao, has sent letters to four public prosecutors' offices but, at the time of this writing, these letters have gone unanswered.

Unfortunately, Oulon is just the latest journalist to go missing: Kalifara Séré, who appears on the programme "7Infos" on the private television channel BF1, has been missing since 19 June – the day after he attended a hearing with the judicial police. The hearing concerned comments Séré had made on air two days prior that questioned the authenticity of filmed footage of the head of state, Ibrahim Traoré, donating blood. Burkina Faso’s media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de la Communication (CSC), announced the suspension of “'7Infos”' for two weeks, starting on 20 June, in response to  Séré’s comments.

Another journalist for BF1Adama Bayala, who appears every Sunday on the 'Presse Echos' programme , has not been heard from since 28 June. "He left his office and went to see a friend, who waited for him in vain. It seems that he was abducted in the middle of traffic," says a source close to Bayala who wishes to remain anonymous.

Only one of these disappearances has been claimed by alleged members of the ANR, yet RSF is concerned about the involvement of Burkinabe authorities in all three cases. According to a number of journalistic investigations, secret service abductions of activists and other dissenting civilians has become the norm under the junta regime. Some are locked up for a few weeks or months in unmarked villas in the heart of the capital, while others are transferred to the Kaya military camp, some 80 km northeast from the capital Ouagadougou, to undergo military training before being forced to join the army.

Three journalists disappearing in ten days without a single comment from the authorities in power is appalling! Given this thunderous silence, and the kidnapping strategies already used by the authorities to silence critical voices – and the fact that one of these dissapearances is considered a critical voice – RSF has every reason to believe that the journalists were kidnapped by members of the secret service. It’s up to the governmentto end its silence and do everything in its power to shed full light on the situations of Serge Oulon, Kalifara Séré and Adama Bayala. These kidnappings are creating a climate of fear and self-censorship that is jeopardising press freedom in a country where it was a well-established pillar.

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF's Sub-Saharan Africa Desk

Since Ibrahim Traoré came to power, Burkina Faso has gradually turned into an information desert. Any means are used to silence the free and independent press, including the suspension of international media, expelling foreign correspondents and putting Burkinabe journalists under constant pressure. In November 2023, two journalists who criticised the government were requisitioned by the army  before finally being released.

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