Dakar, July 17, 2023—Burkinabè authorities should immediately reverse the suspension of French television news channel La Chaîne Info (LCI) and stop censoring local and foreign media coverage of the jihadist insurgency in Burkina Faso and the Sahel region, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On June 23, Burkina Faso’s media regulator, the Superior Council for Communication (known by its French acronym CSC), suspended LCI, which is part of private broadcaster TF1, for three months for allegedly airing false information about deteriorating security conditions in the country on its current affairs show, “24H Pujadas,” according to several media reports and a copy of the decision.
“We call on the Burkinabè authorities to reverse their decision and immediately lift the suspension of LCI’s broadcasting,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in New York. “The latest suspension of a French media outlet over its insurgency reporting appears retaliatory rather than grounded in fact and robs the people of Burkina Faso of their right to know what is happening in their country.”
Thousands of Burkinabè citizens have died and millions have been displaced in the eight-year insurgency led by militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, who currently control large areas of the country. Soured relations between France, the country’s former colonial power, and Burkina Faso’s ruling military junta led to the February withdrawal of French troops helping to fight the insurgents.
LCI is the third French outlet to be suspended since December 2022 in Burkina Faso after France 24’s suspension in March and the radio station RFI in December. In addition, two French journalists working for Le Monde and Libération were expelled from Burkina Faso in April.
The CSC suspension decision said commentary by LCI’s popular “24H Pujadas” host, Abnousse Shalmani, on an April 24 segment titled “Sahel, the lost zone” was “not based on any concrete evidence” and “lacked objectivity and credibility.” It also said the report exaggerated the scale of the insurgency and “seditiously” exposed “unverified” failures in Burkina Faso’s military response to the insurgency, Reuters reported.
Blahima Traoré, CSC general secretary, told CPJ by messaging app that the three satellite television providers that carry LCI for subscribers, were formally notified of the decision on June 23.
Canal+ Burkina, Neerwaya Multivision, and Stars Médias Burkina—the three providers—would be “liable for penalties” if they failed to suspend LCI for three months from the notification date, a CSC notification sent to Canal+ Burkina’s general manager said. At least one of the three—Canal+ Burkina—has suspended LCI broadcasts, but the channel is still available online, Guézouma Sanogo, president of the Association of Journalists of Burkina, told CPJ via messaging app on July 10. CPJ was not able to immediately confirm whether Neerwaya Multivision and Stars Médias Burkina have suspended LCI broadcasts.
According to Article 46 of the 2013 law that establishes the regulator and sets out its powers and composition, the CSC can suspend the broadcasting of a program “for a maximum of three months” depending on the seriousness of the breach.
CPJ tried unsuccessfully to contact LCI and Shalmani for comment via their social media accounts.