Two critical journalists conscripted into Burkina Faso’s army to fight terrorists
Two journalists in Burkina Faso have been conscripted into its army for three months to participate in the country’s fight against terrorism. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this new way to silence reporters critical of the government.
The two journalists, who are known for criticising Burkina Faso’s military government, have been enlisted for three months from 7 November. They have been called on to take up arms in the Burkinabe armed forces’ fight against Jihadi rebels.
One of the two journalists, Issaka Lingani, aged 64, is a columnist for “Presse Échos,” a political analysis programme broadcast by the BF1 TV channel. He received a conscription order from the Operations Command of the Burkina Faso National Theatre (an entity responsible for combatting Jihadi terrorism) on 6 November.
“This is an arbitrary summons, linked to my critical views about the government”, said Lingani, a veteran journalist who also heads the local branch of the Francophone Press Union (UPF).
Lingani was due to report on 7 November to a base in Kaya, 100 kms north of the capital, Ouagadougou, for military training for “two to three weeks.” He will then be sent to the western Boucle du Mouhoun region, which has been badly hit by renewed terrorist activity. He will then have to participate in “territorial security operations” until 6 February 2024, according to the conscription order seen by RSF.
Yacouba Ladji Bama, an investigative reporter and founder of the Bam Yinga online media outlet, is the other journalist to have received a similar summons. According to the information obtained by RSF, he is currently outside the country.
Forcibly enlisting two journalists critical of the government to fight in the army constitutes a new attack on press freedom in Burkina Faso. Conscripting journalists, including one aged 64, who have never undergone any military training is an appalling way to silence them, while at the same time putting their lives in danger. We condemn these grossly unjust conscription orders and call on the Burkinabe authorities to rescind them at once.
Capt. Ibrahim Traoré, who took power in a military coup in September 2022, signed a general mobilisation decree in April 2023 allowing the conscription of civilians to fight against Jihadi rebels. A new wave of conscriptions, which began on 4 November, is specifically targeting Traoré opponents. Some 20 well-known figures, including these two journalists. are among those who have been conscripted.
During a flag-raising ceremony at the president’s office on 6 November, Traoré announced that his “transition” government was taking a “new direction,” and that “individual freedoms do not take precedence over those of the nation.”
Deliberately degraded media landscape
The authorities have made no bones about their desire to impose “patriotic” news coverage since the September 2022 coup. A variety of methods have been used to bring the media to heel. Jeune Afrique, a Paris-based news monthly that specialises in Africa, has been inaccessible since 25 September 2023. Foreign reporters have been deported. Journalists have been subjected to smear and intimidation campaigns.