Burkina Faso: Press Commemorate the 18 Anniversary of the Assassination of Journalist Nortbert Zongo

The press in Burkina Faso have declared day of “silent media” as part of events to mark the death 18 year ago of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo, who was assassinated on December 13, 1998.

The  “silent media” involved observing “13 minutes’ silence on radio”, “13 minutes’ blank screen on TV”  followed by a march dubbed “black page”. The events were climaxed with a sient sit-in in front of the Court of Justice in Ouagadougou.

The Centre National de la Presse – Norbert Zongo, (CNP-NZ), a media development and freedom of expression organisation named after the famous journalist, led the media in Burkina Faso to mark the 18th anniversary of the assassination.

Abdoulaye DIALLO, Co-ordinator of the centre, which is also MFWA’s partner in Burkina Faso, said the gesture was intended to denounce the culpable silence of the Burkinabe justice system. “Yet the re-opening of the docket on the case during the transition and the advent of the new government had given the crusaders against injustice and impunity so much hope to the,” Diallo lamented.

On December 13, 1998, the Burkinabe  journalist and editor of l’Indépendant newspaper, Norbert Zongo and his three colleagues; his brother, Ernest Zongo, a staff of Blaise Ilboudo,  and Ablasse Nikiema the driver were killed in a horrific assassination at Sapouy, some 100 km south of  Ouagadougou.

Norbert Zongo was assassinated while investigating the suspicious death of David Ouédraogo, a former chauffeur of François Compaoré, younger brother of then President Blaise Compaore. The matter has since not been fully investigated and the families of the victims have not had a closure.

In March 2014, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights delivered a judgement that declared the Burkinabe government guilty of failure to investigate diligently the assassination of Norbert Zongo. The Court added that Burkina Faso’s posture violated the country’s obligation to protect the fundamental rights of journalist under Revised ECOWAS Treaty. It consequently ordered the country to pay damages of up to one million US Dollars to the families of the victims.

The commemoration of the 18th anniversary of the assassination was thus focused on drawing the attention of the public and the Burkinabe government to the continuing impunity surrounding the murder and to call on the state to investigate the matter and ensure justice.

The MFWA believes that the murder of Norbert Zongo was an attempt to intimidate the media and to mussel freedom of expression in Burkina Faso. We therefore salute our partners, the CNP-NZ for the initiative and join our voice to that of the media in Burkina Faso to demand justice for Norbert Zongo, his three colleagues and their families

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