Today, December 13, 2018, marks exactly 20 years since Burkinabe journalist, Norbert Zongo was killed, and in what has been welcomed as a major step forward in the long struggle to secure justice for the slain journalist, a court in France Courts has authorised the extradition to Burkina Faso of the prime suspect to face trial.
The approval for the extradition of Francois Compaore, brother of former President Blaise Compaore, was given on December 5, 2018.
The ace investigative journalist was killed while he was out on the field investigating the circumstances surrounding the death in detention of Francois Compaore’s driver. His death sparked a wave of protests by the media and civil society groups demanding justice and denouncing the culture of impunity under the Compaore regime. The mass civil society mobilisation eventually led to a popular revolt in 2014 that ended Compaore’s 27-year dictatorship.
It will be recalled that the post-Compaore government in Burkina Faso issued an international arrest warrant against François Compaoré following investigations that reportedly linked him to the killing of journalist Zongo.
François Compaoré was arrested in October 2017 when he got off the plane at the Paris Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in France. The Burkinabe authorities’ efforts to get him extradited met with the refusal of France whose laws forbid extradition of suspects to countries where they could face the death penalty.
Following assurances from the Burkinabe authorities that the country is far advanced in its efforts to scrap the death penalty, the extradition was approved.
This is an important step in the search for justice and the fight against crimes committed against journalists, which in most cases go unpunished.
This important court decision sends an unequivocal message and encouragement to human rights defenders and the press freedom activists. It represents a hope of justice for the relatives and families affected by these crimes.
“We heaved a sigh of relief,” says Robert Zongo, the murdered journalist’s brother.
This sigh of relief could not have come at a better time than on the 20th anniversary of Zongo’s killing. With this momentous decision, the sombre nature of the annual commemoration of this important date on the Burkinabe media calendar will hopefully give way to a more enthusiastic mood this time round.
MFWA welcomes the extradition approval and urge the French authorities to take steps to get Francois Compaore sent back to Burkina Faso to face trial. We wish the media fraternity in Burkina Faso a successful 20thanniversary commemoration of Norbert Zongo’s killing.