Burkina Faso suspends live political broadcasts by media

Abuja, Nigeria, May 19, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Burkina Faso authorities to lift its suspension of live political broadcasts in the country. The three-month ban comes as Burkina Faso prepares to hold elections in October.

The High Council for Communication, the media regulatory body known as le Conseil superieur de la communication, declared a three-month suspension on live political broadcasts aired by TV and radio stations, according to a statement on its website dated May 12. The statement said the order went into effect on May 7.

The move comes after President Blaise Compaore was forced to step down from office in October 2014. Compaore had sought to alter the country’s constitution to allow him to seek re-election in 2015, but was met with a series of protests in October 2014, according to news reports. The country is being ruled by a transitional government until the elections.

“This blanket suspension by Burkinabe authorities amounts to outright censorship,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa representative. “If authorities care to hold a credible election this year, they must allow media outlets to resume broadcasting live political debate.”

The council said “serious violations” had been observed during live broadcasts, but did not identify the stations that had allegedly violated the rules and did not specify the violations committed. The council said any stations that violated the order would be sanctioned in accordance with the law.

Local journalists told CPJ that broadcast stations were complying with the order.

Local media organizations denounced the suspension as unconstitutional, according to news reports. On Saturday, the council met with representatives of 13 media organizations, the council reported. Lookman Sawadogo, president of the local Association of Private Press Editors, told CPJ the representatives asked the council to lift the suspension. Sawodogo said the representatives would meet again in the coming days to consider further action if the suspension wasn’t lifted soon.