Journalist Lohé Issa Konaté has been imprisoned in Burkina Faso since he was convicted in October of criminal defamation over articles in private weekly L'Ouragan alleging corruption and abuse of power at the office of the public prosecutor. In May, an appeals court rejected his appeal and upheld the 12-month sentence, according to defense counsel Halidou Ouedraogo. Now, after exhausting all domestic legal remedies, Konaté has filed a complaint with the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in Tanzania.
In Burkina Faso, tens of journalists from state media today held a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Communications in the capital Ouagadougou to protest what they deem to be excessive government censorship of news coverage.
New York, October 31, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the criminal convictions of two journalists and the suspension of their newspaper in Burkina Faso on charges of criminal defamation in connection with their allegations of corrupt practices in the state prosecutor's office.
For Geneviève Zongo, every December 13 revives excruciating memories of the loss of her husband Norbert Zongo, editor of the weekly. He was assassinated in 1998 while investigating the murder of a driver working at Burkina Faso's presidential palace. More painful still is that the killers who ambushed Zongo's car, riddling it with bullets and torching it, have never been brought to justice.
Fifty years ago, development journalism helped to silence dissenting voices: One had to rally to the fathers of the nation for the sake of national unity. Accordingly, the legacy of these 50 years of Francophone media in Africa is freedom of the press and opinion. Journalists prod the elites, who are allergic to criticism, and require that they account for their handling of power and assume responsibility in the face of the various scandals they cause. Recently in Burkina Faso for instance, a government minister had to resign after the print media revealed his extramarital affair with a married woman. This was unthinkable a few years ago.
I will continue to relive for a long time August 5, 1960, the day Upper Volta, as Burkina Faso was then known, proclaimed independence from France! As a presenter of the newly founded national radio network, I was on the air, which was open to listeners all night. Some listeners, with tears of joy on their faces would enter the studio singing or reciting epic poems! As much as I loved the radio days of my debut in journalism, I have mixed feelings about the first decades following Independence.
Your Excellencies: As you gather in Paris for festivities that celebrate your nations’ 50 years of independence, we, the undersigned African press freedom advocates petition for your public commitment to a free, vibrant, and self-sustaining press as a cornerstone of the development of francophone Africa in the next five decades.
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