BY SAM MEDNICK
DAKAR, SENEGAL (AP) — Burkina Faso’s military junta has expelled two journalists working for French media without reason, said the outlets.
Sophie Douce, a French correspondent for Le Monde, and Agnes Faivre, correspondent for Liberation, were given 24 hours to leave the West African country with no explanation, said articles by both newspapers on Sunday.
The correspondents were each questioned separately about their work by state security on Friday. Faivre was ordered to leave that evening and Douce the following day, they both arrived in Paris Sunday.
“Le Monde condemns in the strongest terms this arbitrary decision which forced the two journalists to leave Ouagadougou in less than 24 hours,” said Jerome Fenoglio, director of Le Monde.
“These two expulsions mark another major setback for the freedom to inform about the situation in Burkina Faso,” he said.
Jihadi fighters linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have been waging a violent insurgency in Burkina Faso for seven years, that’s killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people. The violence has destabilized and divided the once peaceful country in the Sahel region leading to two coups last year. Since the second coup when Capt. Ibrahim Traore seized power in September, civic freedoms have shrunk, say rights groups and residents.
The expulsions come less than a week after the junta suspended French broadcaster, France 24, for interviewing a top jihadi rebel and months after the government suspended French broadcaster Radio France Internationale for having relayed an “intimidation message” attributed to a “terrorist,” according to a statement from the junta.
In March, Mathieu Pellerin, the Sahel consultant for the International Crisis Group, was arrested and detained for two days by authorities and questioned about his work, said Murithi Mutiga, the group’s Africa program director. In December the government expelled the top U.N. official in the country and weeks later ordered France to recall its ambassador.
The government did not respond to questions about why the journalists were expelled. However, the decision came days after Liberation published an investigation into the circumstances showing children executed in a military barracks in the country’s north. After the article was published, the government alleged the French publication was manipulating the situation for political purposes and the reporters didn’t have knowledge of the reality on the ground, said a statement by Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo, the government spokesman.
On Monday, The AP published its own findings into the video of the killings, which corroborate those of Liberation.
A seasoned journalist previously covering foreign affairs in Africa, Faivre had been in Burkina Faso since 2021 reporting on the humanitarian crisis and the growing security threat.
“Agnes is a journalist of the highest integrity who has been covering Africa for many years. She is a formidable writer who knows Burkina Faso very well and her expulsion is completely unjustified and deeply regrettable,” said Sonia Delesalle-Stolper, Liberation’s chief foreign editor.
Douce had been based in the country since 2018, covering it with “rigor, impartiality and independence,” said Le Monde. Her work on people displaced by jihadi violence earned her a Varenne award last year.
The expulsion of the two journalists from Burkina Faso illustrates the junta’s desire to control the activities of independent media and promote media in favor of the pro-junta narrative, say rights groups.
Not only are reporters being expelled, but simple administrative formalities have been replaced by complex accreditation processes, which hamper journalistic work and do not respect the principle of journalists being able to protect the identity of their sources, said Sadibou Marong, head of the sub-Saharan Africa office for Reporters Without Borders.
“This will develop censorship and put local journalists at risk of being arbitrarily arrested,” he said.