Burkina Faso: Junta suspends Radio Oméga for hosting Niger coup critic

Radio Oméga has gone completely silent since August 10, 2023, when the Burkinabe government suspended indefinitely the vibrant Ouagadougou-based private radio station after describing its recent broadcast as offensive to neighbouring Niger.

The decision relates to an August 10 interview the station granted to Ousmane Abdoul Moumouni, the spokesperson of an organisation that calls itself Conseil de la Résistance pour la République (Resistance Council for the Republic), which seeks to restore democracy in coup-rocked Niger.

The statement signed by the Minister of Communication and Government Spokesman, Jean Emmanuel Ouédraogo, said Ousmane supports a “cowardly” and “barbaric” agenda to attack the brotherly people of Niger. It also said the interview was “punctuated with insulting remarks about the new authorities in Niger” and accused radio Oméga disregarding journalistic ethics and shirking its responsibility as a media outlet.

“The government acknowledges this editorial freedom and has therefore freely taken the decision to suspend the broadcasting of Radio Oméga’s programmes from Thursday 10 August 2023 until further notice, in the best interests of the nation,” concludes the press release.

Decision infringes regulator’s rights

The government has decided to suspend the radio station despite the fact that the Conseil Supérieur de la Communication (CSC), Burkina Faso’s media regulatory authority, had already taken up the matter. According to Khaled Ouédraogo, Editorial Director and Acting Managing Director of the Oméga media group, the radio station stopped broadcasting the interview following a call he received from the Chairman of the CSC in the afternoon, on August 10.

The Chairman of the CSC is said to have approached the radio station after receiving a phone call from Minister Jean Emmanuel, who had complained about the interview. It has been established that the regulatory authority with full jurisdiction over the matter had already initiated the necessary regulatory procedures and that any decisions would be taken in accordance with the institution’s regulations.

Unexpectedly, however, the Government decided to suspend Radio Oméga, in the same way that France 24, RFI and Libération have been suspended in Burkina Faso.

The Conseil Supérieur de la Communication, which was expected to comment on the matter, has not yet reacted publicly to the government’s decision.

The military government in Burkina Faso recently declared its support for the July 26, 2023 coup in Niger and vowed to go to the aid of the country if the regional bloc, ECOWAS, went ahead with plans to reverse the coup by force.

Radio management challenges the Government’s claims

Radio Oméga issued a press release on 11 August 2023, a day after the suspension, voicing its strong protest against what it calls an “unfair and unsubstantiated” decision.

“Radio Oméga by no means identifies with the points made in the government’s press release to justify its suspension. Our media, concerned about the right to information of Burkinabè, wants to be free, professional and inclusive of different political currents,” the radio said in its press release. It added that it would explore all avenues to appeal the suspension.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the suspension of radio Oméga, and calls on authorities to reverse their decision, with deprives thousands of citizens of access to information. While we denounce the fact that the junta did not report omega first to the media regulator, the CSC, we stress on the fact that this suspension equally amount to an attack on editorial independence and a censorship on plurality of opinions regarding events in Niger.

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