Burkina Faso | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

41

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

15

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

13

Although freedom of speech is protected by the constitution under Article 8, in practice journalists occasionally face harassment by public authorities for coverage deemed unfavorable, and many practice self-censorship. 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 unfavorable to the press and put the burden of proof on the defendant. No law exists to guarantee equal access to information. In June 2007, the media came under the control of the newly formed Ministry of Culture, Tourism, Communications, and Spokesman of the Government, which is responsible for developing media policy. The Superior Council of Communication, which is housed in the presidential office and possesses little independence, regulates the media.

The investigation into the 1998 murder of prominent journalist Norbert Zongo continued to demonstrate in 2007 the limits to press freedom in Burkina Faso. Following the July 2006 dismissal of the case against a presidential guard, the only person ever formally charged in the murder, subsequent efforts in 2006 to reopen the case by Zongo’s family and Reporters Sans Frontieres were unsuccessful. On February 3, almost 3,000 people demonstrated in the capital against the closing of this case, but no government response was ever forthcoming. In January 2007, a court in Ouagadougou sentenced two journalists with the private monthly L’Evenement, director Germain Nama and editor Ahmed Newton Barry, to two-month suspended prison terms and fines of US$680 each on libel charges, associated with a 2006 report connecting President Blaise Compaore’s brother with Zongo’s murder.

Burkinabe journalists faced other instances of harassment throughout 2007. In April, Karim Sama, the singer and radio host for Radio Ouaga who is also known as Sam’s K le Jah, received death threats for publicly criticizing Compaore’s government. In September, while Sama was working his parked car was burned; yet by year’s end, the government had not taken action to investigate the case. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa, in March, Thierry Nabyoure, a journalist with the private paper San Finna, was arrested and held for two days in response to an article critical of the head of the national gendarmerie; in May, formal defamation charges were filed. In June, Abdoul Salam Quarma, a correspondent with the Burkinabe Information Agency based in the northern town of Titao, received death threats from a group of youths dissatisfied with a report he had written about a recent drinking-related death in the town.

Although the state-operated media function with a noticeable progovernment bias, the media are generally free of overt censorship. During 2007, several newspapers were openly critical of the government, despite the threat of censure. Radio is the most popular news medium, owing to the country’s literacy rate of only 24 percent and the high cost of newspapers and television sets. There are several private ratio stations in addition to the state-run Radio Burkina, and a small number of private television stations broadcast alongside the state-run Television Nationale du Burkina. Several private daily and weekly papers circulate in addition to Sidwaya, the official daily paper. Access to international print and broadcast media and the internet remains unrestricted by the government, while infrastructure limitations and poverty held the percentage of the population able to access the internet at 0.6 percent.