“Call of the Thirty: Press Freedom in Burkina Faso and Mali – A Perplexing and Bursting Conundrum!”
Joliba TV News, L’observateur Paalga, France 24, the Federation of African Journalists, Axadle, Omega Media, Le Monde, Wakat Sera, Libération… Thirty African and international organizations and media outlets are mobilizing on May 3rd in support of press freedom in Mali and Burkina Faso. They are calling on the authorities of these two countries and the international community to put an end to the pressures and threats faced by national and foreign journalists on their respective territories. They are urging the two transitional governments to respect their countries’ international commitments in the field of freedom of expression, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, thirty African and international media outlets, including Axadle and France 24, publish an open letter on May 3rd, 2023 addressed to the authorities of Burkina Faso and Mali, as well as to the entire international community.
As pressures and death threats targeting national and foreign journalists continue to escalate in these two countries, the signatories of this text are concerned about the threats looming over freedom of expression and freedom of the press. “The measures taken by the authorities of Burkina Faso, especially in recent months, are likely to undermine the fundamental right of citizens to be informed”, they wrote in this collective text. “Freedom begins where ignorance ends,” they added, recalling the recent arrests and imprisonments of journalists and opinion leaders in Mali.
Albert Camus once said that when the press is free, it can be good or bad, but when it is not, it can only be bad.
Inoussa Ouedraogo, publisher of the newspaper “Le Bendré” and chairman of the Norbert Zongo press center steering committee
“In Burkina Faso as in Mali, these attacks are increasingly relayed on social networks by “influencers” favorable to the military regimes of these two countries, who play the role of vigilantes and do not hesitate to threaten to kill journalists and opinion leaders who are too independent in their eyes,” the signatories of the letter still warn. The signatories include organizations defending journalists’ rights, such as the International Union of Francophone Press (UPF) and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), as well as human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
Today, more than ever, freedom of expression is a constitutional right. It is important to safeguard this precious asset.
Mohamed Attaher Halidou, director of information at Joliba TV News
Citing the Burkinabe daily L’Observateur Paalga, the authors of the open letter claim that “the establishment of a regime of terror” is accompanied by a wave of “fake news” flooding social networks with falsehood. According to them, “the first victims of these ‘influencers’ are the Malian and Burkinabe populations, who are deprived of democratic debate.”
The enemy can never be press freedom. The enemy can never be journalists. The enemy can never be the media. On the contrary, the media are part of the solution.
Boureima Ouedraogo, publisher of the bimonthly “Le Reporter”
The thirty signatories, “aware of their responsibilities” but also “of the political, geopolitical, and military complexity” in these countries, affirm: “The fight against terrorism must not be used as a pretext to impose a new norm of information and to restrict the fundamental rights of the Malian and Burkinabe populations to seek and have access to information through professional and independent media.”
For us, this is an initiative of solidarity that reminds us of the crucial importance of respecting and promoting press freedom.
Sadibou Marong, head of the RSF Africa desk in Dakar
The drafting of this “Call of the thirty” was coordinated by the sub-Saharan Africa office of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).