Burkina Faso suspends BBC, Voice of America radio stations over their coverage of mass killing reports

April 27, 2024 by No Comments

Burkina Faso suspended the BBC and Voice of America radio stations for their coverage of a report by Human Rights Watch on a mass killing of civilians carried out by the country’s armed forces. Burkina Faso’s communication spokesperson, Tonssira Myrian Corine Sanou, said late Thursday that both radio stations would be suspended for two weeks, and warned other media networks to avoid reporting on the story. According to the report published by Human Rights Watch on Thursday, the army killed 223 civilians, including 56 children, in villages accused of cooperating with militants. The report was widely covered by the international media, including the . Burkina Faso, a once-peaceful nation, has been ravaged by violence that has pitted jihadis linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group against state-backed forces. Both sides have targeted civilians caught in the middle, displacing more than 2 million people, of which over half are children. Most attacks go unpunished and unreported in a nation run by a repressive leadership that silences perceived dissidents. Earlier in April, the AP verified accounts of a Nov. 5 army attack on another village that killed at least 70 people. The details were similar — the army blamed the villagers for cooperating with militants and massacred them, even babies. “VOA stands by its reporting about Burkina Faso and intends to continue to fully and fairly cover activities in the country,” the network said in a news article reporting on its suspension. The BBC didn’t respond to a request for comment. On Friday, the called on Burkina Faso to reverse the suspension of the two international broadcasters. “Restrictions on media freedom and civic space must stop immediately. Freedom of expression including the right of access to information is crucial in any society, and even more so in the context of the transition in Burkina Faso,” it said in a statement. In the same statement, the U.N. said it had received additional reports that large numbers of civilians, including children, had been killed in several villages in the Yatenga and Soum provinces of northern Burkina Faso. The AP couldn’t immediately verify those reports. More than 20,000 people have been killed in Burkina Faso since jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and IS first hit the nation nine years ago, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit group. Burkina Faso experienced two coups in 2022. Since seizing power in September 2022, the junta led by Capt. Ibrahim Traoré has promised to beat back militants. But violence has only worsened, analysts say. Around half of Burkina Faso’s territory remains outside of government control. Frustrated with a lack of progress over years of Western military assistance, the junta has severed military ties with former colonial ruler France and turned to Russia instead for security support.