The military ruling Burkina Faso has expelled two French journalists working for newspapers Le Monde and Liberation, in what is being seen as the latest crackdown against French media. The two newspapers have accused the authorities of seeking to stifle freedom of speech with an escalating crackdown on foreign media. Liberation said its correspondent Agnès Faivre and Le Monde’s Sophie Douce arrived in Paris early on Sunday after they were summoned separately for questioning by the military authorities on Friday and later notified of their expulsion. The two are “journalists of perfect integrity, who worked in Burkina Faso legally, with valid visas and accreditations … We strongly protest against these absolutely unjustified expulsions,” Liberation said in an editorial statement on its website. There was no statement from the authorities in Burkina Faso. The French foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Relations between Paris and Ouagadougou have deteriorated sharply since Burkina Faso’s military seized power in a coup last October. In March, the Burkina military government scrapped a 1961 accord with France on military assistance. It has since ordered the French ambassador and troops to withdraw from the country and suspended broadcasts by France’s RFI radio and television channel France 24.
“These two expulsions mark a new major setback in the freedom to inform on the situation in Burkina Faso,” Le Monde Director Jérôme Fenoglio said in a statement. Douce’s reporting “obviously ended up seeming unbearable to the regime of Ibrahim Traoré, transition president for six months,” he said. Liberation said a recent investigation by Faivre “into the circumstances in which a video was filmed showing children and adolescents being executed in a military barracks by at least one soldier” had “evidently strongly displeased the junta”. “These restrictions on freedom of information are unacceptable and the sign of a power that refuses to allow its actions to be questioned,” it said.
Burkina government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo had criticised the article as “manipulations disguised as journalism to tarnish the image of the country”. Media rights organisation Reporters Without Borders alleged the military was targeting the media to “camouflage its abuses”.
Burkina Faso is one of several West African countries and former French colonies battling violent groups that took root in neighbouring Mali and have spread across the region over the past decade. Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million displaced across the Sahel region south of the Sahara despite the presence of foreign troops, including from France. Frustrations over authorities’ failure to restore security have spurred anti-French sentiment and helped bring about two military takeovers in Burkina Faso and two in Mali since 2020.