Burkina Faso suspends French broadcaster over jihadist interview

The military government in Burkina Faso has suspended French broadcaster France 24 for interviewing a leading member of the jihadi rebel.

The suspension was announced in a statement dated March 27, 2023, and signed by government spokesman, Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo.

“The government is saddened to see that the head of a terrorist organization like AQIM and recognized as such by the entire international community can be offered the editorial generosity of France 24 to talk at length on the channel’s airwaves,” the government said.

“It is with regret that the government discovered two weeks ago an interview with the ‘chief of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’ on France 24, part of the France Medias Monde group,” the statement read, adding that France 24 has given the jihadist group space to legitimise their actions.

The French channel revealed on March 6, that it had conducted an exclusive Abu Obeida Youssef al-Aanabi, the leader of AQIM, the coordinating organisation of the most active extremist groups operating in the Sahel region. The media outlet however denies putting him on TV.

“The channel has never invited him to speak directly on its programmes, and has simply reported his words in the form of a column, ensuring the necessary distance and context,” the French channel responded in a statement.

France 24 has therefore rejected the accusations of professionalism and expressed disappointment with the Burkinabe authorities’ decision.

It is the second time in four months that the Burkina Faso authorities have targeted a French media organisation. The junta suspended Radio France Internationale (RFI) in December 2022, also on accusations of lending its platform to a “terrorist chief” to intimidate the country.

Military coups and armed insurgency have combined to throw Burkina Faso into a spiral of political and social crisis that has greatly curtailed civil rights in the country. The authorities have become oversensitive to criticism and taken a number of repressive measures against the media, particularly the foreign press. The same situation prevails in neighbouring Mali, also beset with the same security and political crises. Like Burkina Faso, Mali has suspended RFI and France 24.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is disappointed with the decision of the Burkinabe government and calls on it to revoke the suspension of France 24. The media outlet did not air the interview live or recorded it. It only discussed the issues raised in the interview with the AQIM leader, without glorifying the AQIM leader or his actions.

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