Amnesty urges Burkina Faso to halt assault on media

Human rights defender Amnesty International on Friday urged Burkina Faso authorities to stop “attacks and threats” against press freedom in the West African country.

The call came a day after UN rights chief Volker Turk said he was deeply troubled by the increasing clampdown on the media amid wider curbs on freedoms in insurgency-hit Burkina.

“The authorities must stop the attacks and threats against the freedom of the press and expression and protect journalists,” Amnesty’s West Africa regional director Samira Daoud said.

“The struggle against armed groups and insecurity should not be a pretext to restrict press freedom and the rights of citizens to access information,” she said in a statement.

Burkina Faso last week expelled correspondents from the Liberation and Le Monde newspapers, in the latest move against French media by the junta ruling one of the world’s most volatile and impoverished countries.

Burkina Faso, which witnessed two coups last year, is battling a jihadist insurgency that spilled over in 2015 from neighbouring Mali, which is also run by the military.

Since junta leader Ibrahim Traore seized power in September, the activities of all political parties and civil society organisations in Burkina Faso have been suspended.

Media freedoms have been curbed, with the authorities suspending Radio France Internationale and France 24 broadcasts.

Both RFI and France 24, which cover African affairs closely and are popular in French-speaking west African nations, have also been suspended in Mali.

Amnesty said the expulsions were  “worrying” and denounced “threats and attacks” against several local reporters since the start of the year.

“Expelling journalists for doing their job to inform and without official documents to explain why is abusive,” Daoud said.

Turk, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, had sounded the alarm on Thursday.

“I am particularly concerned that a journalist was expelled following the reporting on a video that appears to show extrajudicial executions of children in the northern town of Ouahigouya,” he said.

“Protection of independent voices is more necessary than ever — to enable scrutiny, to facilitate accountability, and to allow the space for the Burkinabe people to build a resilient, stable and inclusive society together.”

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