Cape Town, South Africa, December 5, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today's ruling by the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights in Addis Ababa that criminal defamation should be used only in restricted circumstances and that imprisonment for defamation violates freedom of expression. The court also upheld the appeal of Issa Lohé Konaté, editor of the Burkina Faso-based weekly L'Ouragan, who in October 2012 was sentenced to 12 months in prison and a fine for criminal defamation in connection with two articles he wrote questioning abuse of power by the state prosecutor's office.
Lagos, Nigeria, October 30, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed that protesters stormed and looted the offices of Burkina Faso's national broadcaster Radiodiffusion Television du Burkina in the capital, Ouagadougou, today. Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest a constitutional amendment that would allow President Blaise Compaore to seek re-election next year, according to reports.
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.
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1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
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