Burkina Faso military government suspends broadcast of France’s RFI radio

REUTERS/Vincent Bado
Burkina Faso’s new military leader Ibrahim Traore is escorted by soldiers while he stands in an armoured vehicle in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso October 2, 2022.

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s military government has suspended the broadcast of France’s RFI radio in the Sahel West African state over what it said were false reports and giving voice to Islamist militants, a statement from the government said on Saturday.

The statement said RFI on Saturday broadcast a message from a leader of a militant group in which he threatened the population.

“RFI strongly deplores this decision and protests against the totally unfounded accusations calling into question its professionalism,” State-owned Radio France Internationale, usually referred to as RFI, said in a statement.

It added that the decision to suspend its broadcasting was made without prior notice and without the implementation of the procedures put in place by Burkina Faso’s communications regulator.

RFI Afrique radio, which has one of the largest footprints across French-speaking Africa, added that it will explore ways to restore its broadcasting.

The government said that RFI also repeated a press report – which it denied – that Burkina Faso’s President Captain Ibrahim Traore, who seized power in a coup in September, had said there had been an attempted coup trying to unseat him.

“In view of all of the above, the government has decided the immediate suspension of the broadcast of all RFI programs across the national territory,” said the statement signed by government spokesman Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo.

Burkina Faso is the second West African nation to suspend RFI’s broadcast following that of the military government in neighboring Mali in March.

The decision comes amid a backdrop of soured relations between France and its former West Africa colonies Burkina Faso and Mali over frustrations that France has not done enough to tackle Islamist insurgents who occupied northern Mali in 2012 and have spread to neighboring states.

The prolonged insecurity led to political instability and military coups in August 2020 and May 2021 in Mali, and in January 2022 and September 2022 in Burkina Faso.

France pulled its troops from Mali as the relations between Paris and the junta in Mali deteriorated over delays in returning to constitutional rule, and Mali’s decision to turn to Russian private military firm Wagner Group to help fight the insurgents.

The French embassy, cultural center and military base in Burkina Faso were targeted by angry mobs on the day of the coup, and on Nov. 18, demanding that France should leave and that the military leaders, should turn to Russia for help like Mali, to fight the insurgents.