Burkina Faso Monday announced that it will suspend broadcasts from France 24, a French international news network, after the network aired an interview with the head of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The interview effectively classifies France 24 as a “communications agency for these terrorists,” according to Minister of Communication Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo. “France 24 is not only acting as a mouthpiece for these terrorists, but worse,” said Ouedraogo. “It is providing a space for the legitimization of terrorist actions and hate speech.”
The international broadcaster responded forcefully, denying allegations that it functions as a mouthpiece for terrorists and rejecting the notion that it promoted AQIM in a positive manner. According to France 24, the network never spoke directly with the head of AQIM and only “reported his words in the form of a column” with necessary context for its viewers. France 24 said it has been in negotiations with media regulators, but that this issue was not raised to them in their previous meetings. Calling the accusations “defamatory,” it said that “this is an attempt to discredit a channel whose independence and ethics are not in question.”
Millions of people in Burkina Faso watch France 24 programs. The government’s suspension of France 24 broadcasts comes after it suspended Radio France Internationale in December 2022. France 24 emphasized its commitment to journalism in the region and stressed that its reporting will still be available to people via direct satellite reception, YouTube, the internet and social media.
Burkina Faso is currently experiencing a period of instability after it went through two coups in 2022. The African Union suspended the country after the first military coup in January 2022, and conditions further deteriorated after a second coup in October 2022. More recently, UN officials have criticized the government for expelling UN officials and urged them to investigate mounting ethnic violence.