Burkina Faso suspends BBC and Voice of America after they covered a report on mass killings

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A soldier applauds the presidential inauguration of Junta leader Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba during his swearing-in ceremony broadcast on national television on Feb 16, 2022 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (AP)

DAKAR, Senegal, April 27, (AP): Burkina Faso suspended the BBC and Voice of America radio stations for their coverage of a report by Human Rights Watch on a mass killing of civilians carried out by the country’s armed forces.
Burkina Faso’s communication spokesperson, Tonssira Myrian Corine Sanou, said that both radio stations would be suspended for two weeks, and warned other media networks to avoid reporting on the story.
According to the report published by Human Rights Watch on Thursday, the army killed 223 civilians, including 56 children, in villages accused of cooperating with militants. The report was widely covered by the international media, including the Associated Press.
Burkina Faso, a once-peaceful nation, has been ravaged by violence that has pitted jihadis linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group against state-backed forces. Both sides have targeted civilians caught in the middle, displacing more than 2 million people, of which over half are children. Most attacks go unpunished and unreported in a nation run by a repressive leadership that silences perceived dissidents.
Earlier in April, the AP verified accounts of a Nov 5 army attack on another village that killed at least 70 people. The details were similar – the army blamed the villagers for cooperating with militants and massacred them, even babies.
“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.
The BBC didn’t respond to a request for comment.
On Friday, the United Nations called on Burkina Faso to reverse the suspension of the two international broadcasters.
“Restrictions on media freedom and civic space must stop immediately. Freedom of expression including the right of access to information is crucial in any society, and even more so in the context of the transition in Burkina Faso,” it said in a statement.

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