Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of speech is protected by the constitution under Article 8, and this right is usually respected by the government in practice. However, under the 1993 information code, media outlets may be summarily banned if they are accused of distributing false information or endangering national security. Libel laws are also unfavorable to the press and put the burden of proof on the defendant. No law exists to guarantee equal access to information. The Supreme Council of Communication—which operates within the presidential office with limited independence—acts as the regulatory body for the media.
The most significant event for freedom of the press in Burkina Faso in 2006 involved the high-profile investigation of the 1998 murder of prominent journalist Norbert Zongo. In July, the presiding judge dismissed the case against a presidential guard, the only person ever formally charged in the murder. A month later, the appeal made by Zongo’s family was also dismissed. This effectively closed the case until new evidence could be submitted that might strengthen existing charges found to be insufficient. An attempt in October by Reporters Sans Frontieres to submit such evidence and reopen the case also proved unsuccessful. In another example of judicial disinterest in protecting the principles of press freedom, the policemen who beat a journalist covering the Hajj pilgrimage in February 2005 have yet to be formally accused by a court. In addition, Burkinabe journalists experienced occasional instances of harassment in 2006. During a January 16 demonstration, police confiscated the camera of a reporter with L’Independent and held it for the duration of the demonstration; and in April, security forces detained and questioned a journalist for the private Le Pays following an interview he conducted with former soldiers accused of attempting to stage a coup.
The media operate without restriction and report freely on the activities of the executive branch, and criticism of government action or inaction is regularly voiced. Although the state-operated media function with a noticeable pro-government bias, the media are generally free of overt censorship, and several newspapers were openly antigovernment. The state-run television station, TNB, accepted funding for remodeling the station headquarters from a number of major private sources, including the wealthy entrepreneur Oumarou Kanazoe, whom many consider to be a suspect in the Zongo case. TNB denies that this funding will influence coverage. Access to international print and broadcast media and the internet remains unrestricted by the government, but infrastructure limitations and poverty have held the percentage of the population able to access the internet at less than 1 percent.