Burkina Faso: Media regulator suspends French channel in crackdown on foreign media

Burkina Faso’s media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de la Communication (CSC), has suspended French television channel, La Chaine Info (LCI) for three months, accusing it of publishing false information.

In what can be described as an escalation of recent crackdown on press freedom, the CSC claimed in a statement dated June 23, 2023, that the channel aired a subjective and non-credible report on the security situation of the country. The accusation relates to critical remarks about the country’s security situation made by journalist, Abnousse Shalmani, on the popular show “24h Pujadas, l’info en question”.

Shalmani had alleged that the Burkinabe authorities are struggling to contain the army. The journalist described the 90,000 civilian recruits known as Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland (VDP), as cannon fodder. She suggested that the withdrawal of the French army had left local authorities vulnerable and predicted the creation of an Islamic state in view of the advancement of the “jihadists”.

The regulator said Shalmani’s remarks were false and baseless, adding that some of the information presented by the journalist could incite unrest among the population and undermine the necessary collaboration between the army and civilians in safeguarding the country. The regulator also denounced a lack of honesty and a partisan approach to the news, accusing the journalist of neglecting to mention efforts made by the authorities to ensure security, progress made by the army, and the losses inflicted on terrorists.

This is not the first time that foreign media or journalists have been suspended in Burkina Faso. In April 2023, two French journalists working for newspapers, Le Monde and Liberation were expelled from the country. In March 2023, the authorities suspended France 24 for allegedly abetting Islamist militants. The first media to be suspended, in December 2022, was French-funded broadcaster Radio France Internationale (RFI).

This is the third suspension of a foreign media organization by Burkina Faso in less than a year in Burkina Faso. While the CSC may have some reservation about some of the comments made by journalist Shalmani, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) finds its reaction excessive. The civilian and military authorities have a right to a rejoinder rather than suspend the media house. We urge the authorities to show more willingness to engage with, rather than antagonise the media.

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