Burkina Faso, formerly called Upper Volta is bounded by Mali to the north; Niger to the east; Togo and Ghana to the south and Benin and Ivory Coast to the southwest. It gained independence from France in 1960 and its capital is Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country with an estimated population of 15.75million. Majority of the population relies on subsistence farming while the rest rely on industry and services.
Overview of Media and FOE Environment
Since the beginning of the 1990s, democratisation has made it possible for the Burkinabe media to enjoy a certain amount of freedom to practice, and has favoured a rapid growth of the media industry. Relatively low circulation figures, structural difficulties and low advertising market continue to negatively affect the commercial viability of the media industry. There also challenges of professional standards, low remuneration and quality of journalism training.
The Constitution of the country provide for freedom of speech and of the press. However, there are governmental restrictions on these rights and frequent acts of intimidation of journalists by state security officials. Libel remains a criminal offense, and the burden of proof is on the defendant. The combined effects of governmental repression and application of criminal libel has been high level of media self-censorship.
Article 49 of the country’s Information Code grants every journalist free access to sources of information, with exceptions to information pertaining to the internal or external security of the state, military secrets, strategic economic interests, ongoing investigations or legal proceedings, and “anything that threatens the dignity and privacy of Burkinabés.” In practice, these exceptions are used flagrantly applied, making access to government information literally impossible.
The Higher Council for Communication (CSC) is currently the body which regulates the media, information and communication. It succeeded the Higher Council on Information (CSI), which was established in 1995 by Decree No. 95-304/PRES/PM/MCC of August 1, 1995.
Legal Regulatory Framework for Media Operation
The legal framework of the media in the Republic of Burkina Faso is governed by the following laws:
• Law 56/93/ADP (JON° 05 1994) of the Information code
• Article 8 of the constitution and the 1993 Information Code
• Article 49 of the Information Code
MFWA’s work in Burkina Faso
Just as in all other countries in the region, the MFWA has always maintained a strong free expression rights monitoring in Burkina Faso for the past 14 years. The MFWA, with support from its partners, initiated the Pan-Africa Film and Television Festival, popularly called FESPACO, which has for the past decade been an annual continental freedom of expression event, hosted in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou.
In the past three years, the MFWA has been working with local partners in the country, particularly its national partner Centre National de Presse – Norbert Zongo (CNP-NZ) and other local civil society groups to seek reforms to laws that restrict media rights and free expression in the country.
Fortunately after Blaise Campoare was ousted in 2014, the transitional government passed a number of reforms in 2015, including the decriminalisation of defamation and laws designed to improve conditions for women. The transitional government also passed an access to information law. It also reactivated investigations into the murder of journalist Nobert Zongo and former president Thomas Sankara in which high profile individuals associated with Campoare were linked to both cases.
Towards the end of 2016, the MFWA as part of its efforts geared towards media development for participatory and accountable governance embarked on a project on Democratic Governance in West Africa (DEGOWA) in four countries including Burkina Faso. The project aims at building the capacity of the media to create awareness on ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (PDGG) in the region. To this end, MFWA together with its national partner in Burkina Faso, the Centre National de Presse – Norbert Zongo are jointly implementing a number of activities including seminars providing support for journalists to produce stories that examine how well Burkina Faso has implemented the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
Going forward, MFWA will continue to work with local partners to promote free expression and build the capacity of the media to be professional and hold duty bearers acountable. The organisation will also focus on strengthening the country’s media and free expression rights groups to enhance their capacity to contribute to a more participatory and accountable democratic governance in the Burkina Faso.