For nearly ten years, Burkina Faso has been sinking into an endless crisis. Once considered a pole of stability in the tormented region of the Sahel, it has suffered, since the fall of former authoritarian president Blaise Compaoré at the end of 2014, the battering of jihadist groups, already at work in Mali.
And, just like in its neighbour, this unbridled violence has degenerated into bloody inter-community clashes, in particular with the Fulani, a population of nomadic herders spread over several countries in the area. Brutal attacks, indiscriminate reprisals, cruel counter-reprisals, the infernal cycle of violence is now firmly encysted in the “Land of Upright Men” (meaning of the name Burkina Faso).
Faced with this unprecedented crisis, the junta that took power in Ouagadougou in September 2022 decided to fight without outside help. She thus recently denounced the defense agreement linking Burkina Faso to the former French colonial power, whose troops deployed for fifteen years were asked to decamp as soon as possible. “Unlike Mali, which has chosen to rely on an alternative partner (the Russian paramilitary group Wagner), Burkina Faso operates autarkically,” we explain in Paris. An autarkic functioning which also results in the refusal to admit any critical voice.
The French media present on the spot have just paid the price. After Radio France internationale and France 24, in turn deprived of broadcasting, the correspondents of the newspaper Le Monde and Liberation were expelled a few days ago, without notice. All guilty, in the eyes of the authorities, of spreading false news with the aim of demoralizing the population, or of citing the leaders of “terrorist” groups. In reality, these media are above all guilty of doing their job, and of telling as close as possible to the ground the drama experienced by the populations, the cruelty of the armed groups and the powerlessness of the armed forces and the authorities to protect civilians and to stop this spiral of violence.
In French-speaking Africa, the French media have always had a special status since the independence of the former colonies. This is the case, in particular, of RFI, joined for a few years by France 24. With budgets much higher than the local media, not affiliated by nature with any local party, they make a different and independent voice heard. The public is not mistaken: RFI and France 24 attract very large audiences in West Africa. Opponents, whether in exile or staying in their country, can express themselves there, often to the great displeasure of the leaders in place who, not long ago, were very happy to find a microphone there to make their voices heard. point of view.
This is the great strength of RFI and France 24: despite their status as media financed by the state of the former settler, clearly visible in their names, local public opinion has appropriated these information channels, to the point that the best-known journalists have become familiar voices, or faces. Their banishment, expulsion or early departure (like that of La Croix’s former correspondent in Ouagadougou) deprive Burkinabés, like the Malians before them, of valuable sources of information to understand what is happening in their country, and how their leaders act.
Collateral effect, with a multiplied impact: the sanctions taken against these foreign information players send a powerful message of intimidation to the local media. Suffering from a structural lack of resources, subject to pressure from all sides, they are on the front line in the face of the acute crisis that their country is going through, and know that if the ax of power falls, it will not be the expulsion but the prison that awaits them.
“The local media have long since failed to know what to say or what not to say without being accused of undermining the morale of combat troops or glorifying terrorism. (…). This sanction sounds like a warning shot addressed to a whole brotherhood which no longer knows what ink to dip the pen, who to hand the microphone to, what to point its camera at, “wrote, following the suspension of RFI in December 2022 , the Burkinabe newspaper L’Observateur Paalga.