Burkina Faso suspends BBC, Voice of America for reporting on army killings

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Burkina Faso's leader Ibrahim Traore is welcomed by supporters holding Russian flags in an armoured vehicle in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso [File: Vincent Bado/Reuters]

In a new report, Human Rights Watch said military forces ‘summarily executed’ 223 civilians in February.

Burkina Faso has suspended the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) radio networks from broadcasting for two weeks over their coverage of a report accusing the army of the extrajudicial killings of civilians, the authorities said.

In a new report published on Thursday, international organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) said military forces “summarily executed” 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in two villages in February.

The country’s Superior Council for Communication (known by its French acronym CSC) announced late on Thursday that “the programmes of these two international radio networks broadcasting from Ouagadougou have been suspended for a period of two weeks”, adding that BBC Africa and the United States-funded VOA had also published the report on their digital platforms.

HRW’s report contains “peremptory and tendentious” declarations against the army likely to create public disorder, CSC claimed, adding that it had “hasty and biased declarations without tangible proof against the Burkinabe army”.

It said that the country’s internet service providers had been ordered to suspend access to the websites and other digital platforms of the BBC, VOA and HRW from Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso’s communication spokeswoman, Tonssira Myrian Corine Sanou, warned other media networks to avoid reporting on the story.

“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.

HRW said the “massacre” appeared to be part of a “widespread military campaign” against civilians accused of collaborating with armed groups.

Soldiers killed at least 44 people, including 20 children, in Nondin village, and 179 people, including 36 children, in nearby Soro village, according to its report.

HRW interviewed dozens of witnesses between February and March and analysed videos and photographs shared by survivors. It also reportedly obtained lists of the victims’ names compiled by survivors and geolocated eight mass graves based on satellite imagery from March 15.

Last year, Burkinabe authorities suspended French TV outlets LCI and France24 as well as Radio France Internationale and the magazine Jeune Afrique. The correspondents of French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde have also been expelled.

The West African country is run by a military government led by Captain Ibrahim Traore who seized power in a coup in September 2022, eight months after an earlier military coup had overthrown the democratically elected President Roch Marc Kabore.

Civilians have been caught in the crossfire as violence has escalated between the army and armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS). The country’s military leaders have cut ties with former colonial ruler France and turned to Russia for security support.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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