The military government of Burkina Faso has suspended the broadcast of France’s RFI radio in the Sahel West African state over what it claims are false reports and giving voice to Islamist militants, according to a government statement issued on Saturday.
According to the statement, RFI broadcasted a message from a militant group leader on Saturday, in which he threatened the population.
State-owned Radio France Internationale, also known as RFI, issued a statement saying that it “deeply regrets this decision and complains against the utterly baseless accusations calling into doubt its professionalism.”
It said that no prior warning was given and that the processes established by Burkina Faso’s communications commission were not followed when the decision to halt transmission was made.
The largest radio station in French-speaking Africa, RFI Afrique, said that it will look into options to resume transmission.
The government claimed that RFI also cited a news story claiming Captain Ibrahim Traore, the president of Burkina Faso who was overthrown in a coup in September, claimed there had been an effort to overthrow him.
According to a statement released by the government and signed by Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo, “In light of all of the aforementioned, the government has decided the immediate suspension of the broadcast of all RFI programmes across the national territory.”
After the military government in nearby Mali suspended RFI’s broadcast in March, Burkina Faso is the second country in West Africa to do so.
The decision was made against a backdrop of deteriorating relations between France and its former colonies in West Africa, Burkina Faso and Mali, due to frustrations over the lack of action France had taken to combat Islamist insurgents who had taken control of northern Mali in 2012 and spread to neighboring states.
Mali’s political unrest in August 2020, Burkina Faso’s military coups in January 2022 and September 2022, and Mali’s military coup in May 2021 were all caused by the protracted insecurity.
France pulled its troops from Mali as the relations between Paris and the junta in Mali deteriorated over delays in returning to constitutional rule, and Mali’s decision to turn to Russian private military firm Wagner Group to help fight the insurgents.
The French embassy, cultural centre and military base in Burkina Faso were targeted by angry mobs on the day of the coup, and on November 18, demanding that France should leave and that the military leaders, should turn to Russia for help like Mali, to fight the insurgents.