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Burkina Faso Suspends 'France 24' Over Interviewing Terrorist Group Leader

© AFP 2023 / KENZO TRIBOUILLARDIn this file photo taken on April 9, 2019 shows the logo of the live news channel France 24 at Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris.
In this file photo taken on April 9, 2019 shows the logo of the live news channel France 24 at Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.03.2023
Burkina Faso's transitional authorities decided to suspend France 24 after the news channel interviewed the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)*. Radio France International (RFI), another French media outlet, was suspended at the end of 2022.
The France 24 news channel has been suspended in Burkina Faso due to an interview with the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the country's transitional authorities announced today.
Burkina Faso "regrets that the head of a terrorist organization such as AQIM, recognized as such by the international community, can benefit from the editorial freedom of France 24 to express himself at length on its airwaves," according to a statement by government spokesman Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo.

"The government has taken a responsible decision in the higher interest of the nation to suspend sine die the broadcasting of France 24 programs in the entire national territory," he said.

Ouedraogo argued that by giving the floor to the head of a violent militant group, France 24 was "not only acting as a communications office for these terrorists, but, worse, it is providing a space for the legitimization of terrorist actions and hate speech."
France 24, in turn, denied any wrongdoing. It called the accusations unfounded and criticized the West African country's government, which has been at odds with France over the French military presence in the region, for taking the channel off the air without due notice.

Interview in Question

The decision by the Burkinabe government comes a few weeks after France 24 interviewed the leader of AQIM. On March 6, the French television channel announced that Yezid Mebarek, also known as Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, who claimed the title of "emir of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" in 2020 after a French raid reportedly killed his predecessor, replied to 17 questions posed to him by France 24.
The channel published a short excerpt to prove its authenticity. A France 24 journalist reported the terrorist leader’s answers. One of the questions concerned the fate of Olivier Dubois, a French journalist taken hostage in April 2021 and released on March 20, 2023.
French anti-colonial activist Kemi Seba addresses a press conference on June 26, 2020 in Paris. - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.03.2023
Pan-African Activist Slams French Channel for Censorship

Tensions With French Media

In Burkina Faso, the French channel was put on notice in early February, following the questioning of its correspondent in the country in January. According to the country's High Communication Council, France 24 broadcast "false information" in January about women kidnapped in the town of Arbinda in northern Burkina Faso.
The channel described the kidnappers as "Islamist rebels," while the African country's authorities had previously said they were "armed terrorist groups."
France 24 is not the only media outlet the transitional authorities of Burkina Faso, which came to power in late September 2022, have complained about. In December 2022, the government suspended another state-funded French media outlet, RFI, "until further notice." The outlet was accused of a "serious violation" and of disseminating "misleading information."
However, tensions with French media are not the only challenges Franco-Burkinabe relations have been facing lately.
For instance, on March 16, Burkina Faso's authorities arrested an International Crisis Group consultant on charges of espionage, who was later released following a short detention, according to a statement from the group.
The detention took place nearly three months after two other French citizens were expelled from the West African country for the same reason.
On top of that, at the end of February, the Burkinabe authorities terminated a military assistance agreement with France, signed in 1961. In addition, amid growing criticism of the French military presence, the authorities in Ouagadougou demanded on January 18 that France withdraw its troops within a month.
*A terrorist organization banned in Russia and many other countries.
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