The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns in the strongest terms, the death threats issued by unknown individuals against journalist Inoussa Ouédraogo, and calls on the Burkinabe authorities to investigate the threats in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
“You have to be very careful; stop meddling in things that don’t concern you. You think you’re hidden, but we know where you live”, an anonymous sender threatened in a voice message in the local Mori language, which the journalist translated for the MFWA.
Ouédraogo heads the influential association of private newspaper editors, Société des éditeurs de la presse privée (SEP). He also serves on the Steering Committee of the Centre national de Presse Norbert Zongo (CNP-NZ). On the night of August 13, 2023, unidentified individuals parked outside his residence, surveilling his premises. Additionally, audio recordings containing death threats were sent to members of Ouédraogo’s family. The threats were overtly linked to the journalist’s critical commentaries regarding President of the Transition, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, particularly during his media appearances.
Later, the threats against Mr. Ouédraogo escalated after he represented the Professional Media Organizations (OPM) on Télévision BF1’s “7 Infos” show on August 13, 2023, where he condemned the government’s suspension of Radio Oméga as illegal and arbitrary.
The OPM have denounced these threats against Ouédraogo, emphasizing that they view them as a direct menace to their collective voice. In an official press release on August 29, 2023, the OPM called on the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of Inoussa Ouédraogo and his family.
Mr. Ouédraogo told the MFWA in a phone conversation that the case was reported to the office of the Attorney General of Burkina Faso for swift and comprehensive investigation to unmask and prosecute those behind these threats, along with their backers.
The threats have also been reported to the Human rights commission of Burkina Faso.
“I’m not in the right psychological frame of mind to work. I have to admit that I can’t sleep at night. We don’t know how serious these people are; I don’t take anything lightly. I’m trying to protect myself and my family,” Mr. Ouédraogo told the MFWA.
The threats against Mr. Ouédraogo form part of a concerning pattern of attacks and intimidations against the media and journalists in Burkina Faso. Several other journalists, including Yacouba Ladji Bama, Ismaël Ouédraogo, Sery Baoula, Siriki Dramé, Lionel Bilgo, Bassolma Bazié, and Dr Daouda Diallo. Newton Ahmed Barry, and Alpha Barry, have also reported receiving threats in recent times. In one instance, the author was tried and convicted.
Yacouba Ladji Bama, who is the Director of Publication for the investigative news website Bamyinga, told the MFWA that he recently received death threats on Facebook.
“Anyone who tries to criticize the government of transition would face the same fate”, the investigative journalist told the MFWA.
In July 2023, Ismaël Ouédraogo, journalist and Managing Director of Burkina info TV, faced threats and verbal abuse following an editorial on a draft constitutional referendum.
The MFWA is deeply concerned about these persistent death threats and intimidations, which flagrantly infringe upon the right to press freedom and freedom of expression. These developments underscore the precarious situation faced by journalists and critical voices in Burkina Faso.
It is observed that most of the incidents of threats recorded are against journalists and activists and often following the victims’ criticism of the government. It is, therefore, important for the authorities to reassess their own posture towards the media by exhibiting much more tolerance for divergent opinions in order to disarm their belligerent admirers. We also call on the government to publicly condemn and disown zealots who attack or threaten journalists in the name of defending the junta.