Burkina Faso suspends BBC, VOA radio broadcasts over killings coverage

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 4:56 AM

(Reuters) – Burkina Faso has suspended the radio broadcasts of BBC Africa and the U.S-funded Voice of America (VOA) for two weeks over their coverage of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report accusing the army of extrajudicial killings, authorities said late on Thursday.

In the report based on its own investigation, the watchdog said that the West African country’s military summarily executed about 223 villagers, including at least 56 children, in February as part of a campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with jihadist militants.

The Burkinabe army has repeatedly committed mass atrocities against civilians in the name of fighting terrorism, HRW said, calling on authorities to investigate the massacres.

However, the country’s communication council said HRW’s report contains “peremptory and tendentious” declarations against the army likely to create public disorder and it would suspend the programmes of the broadcasters over their coverage of the story.

Authorities also said in a statement they had ordered internet service providers to suspend access to the websites and other digital platforms of the BBC, VOA and Human Rights Watch from Burkina Faso.

HRW conducted its investigation after a regional prosecutor said in March that about 170 people were executed by unidentified assailants during attacks on the villages of Komsilga, Nodin and Soro.

Burkina Faso is one of several Sahel nations that have been struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that have spread from neighbouring Mali since 2012, killing thousands and displacing millions.

Frustrations over authorities’ failure to protect civilians have contributed to two coups in Mali, two in Burkina Faso and one in Niger since 2020.

(Writing by Anait Miridzhanian, Editing by William Maclean)