Burkina Faso’s military government has expelled two French reporters working for the Le Monde and Liberation newspapers. The move comes a week after the country banned the France24 TV channel.
Liberation’s correspondent Agnes Faivre and Le Monde’s Sophie Douce were both expelled on April 1 after being summoned separately for questioning by the military authorities on Friday. They were given 24 hours to leave Burkina Faso.
In a statement published on its website Sunday, Liberation claimed the expulsion of the journalists was “confirmation that the freedom of the press in Burkina Faso is seriously threatened.”
According to the newspaper, the expulsion follows a March 27 story that showed a video of children and adolescents allegedly being “executed in a military barracks, by at least one soldier.”
Although the government of the African state has yet to explain the dismissals, Liberation claims that the story “obviously greatly displeased the ruling junta.”
“’The Burkinabè government, which had not reacted before publication when Liberation had asked for it, had spoken of ‘manipulations […] for political purposes” and of a “desire to ‘discredit’ the army,” the outlet noted.
The paper protested what it called unjustified expulsions, and said the two journalists were of “ideal integrity” and had worked in Burkina Faso legally with “legitimate visas and accreditations.”
Relations between Paris and Ouagadougou have weakened remarkably since Burkina Faso’s military seized power in a coup in October last year.
In March, the Burkinabe foreign ministry scrapped a 1961 agreement on military assistance with France, which had been in force since Paris granted the Sahel country its independence. It has since ordered the withdrawal of the French ambassador and troops, as well as the suspension of broadcasts by television channel France 24 on March 27 and Burkina Radio France International in December.
Both French news networks have been accused of false reporting and giving a platform to jihadist groups.
Le Monde director Jerome Fenoglio said the expulsions “mark a new major setback in the freedom to inform on the situation in Burkina Faso.” He urged the government to reverse the decisions “as quickly as possible and to immediately restore the conditions for independent information in the country.”