Dakar, May 19, 2022 – Activists opposed to France’s influence in Africa should not scapegoat journalists attached to French-speaking international media, and authorities in Burkina Faso should ensure that all members of the press can report freely on public events, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Fanny Naoro-Kabré, a journalist for TV5 Monde, a French-language global broadcaster, was expelled from a May 14 public meeting addressed by prominent French Beninese activist Kémi Séba in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, according to press reports and Naoro-Kabré, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
The meeting was organized by the Coalition of African Patriots of Burkina Faso (COPA-BF), a civil society platform that campaigns against the French military presence in the Sahel region and is affiliated with Séba’s Pan-African organization Urgences Panafricaniste.
Naoro-Kabré was filming when Séba began speaking and said, “We are in a patriotic mobilization. Since we started this mobilization against France-Africa, the French media has not stopped demonizing us, caricaturing us, smearing us,” according to a video of the rally posted on COPA-BF’s Facebook page and reviewed by CPJ.
Then, addressing Naoro-Kabré directly, Séba said, ”With due respect to you – you being a woman, I owe you respect – I will ask security to remove TV5 Monde. I do not want TV5 here.” Séba emphasized that the action was not against the journalist personally but against TV5 Monde, as the activist did not want the presence of French media that “only criticizes his actions,” Naoro-Kabré told CPJ, adding that she voluntarily left the meeting after his comments.
“The decision to bar Fanny Naoro-Kabré from reporting on a meeting of public interest simply because she works for a French-language broadcaster is discriminatory and a serious impediment to press freedom in Burkina Faso,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Journalists should be allowed to cover public meetings freely without fear of harassment or expulsion regardless of the media outlet which employs them.”
Naoro-Kabré told CPJ she called the organizers the day before the rally to say she would be covering the meeting for TV5 Monde and that the organizers agreed and said she was welcome. After she was asked to leave, Naoro-Kabré wanted to speak to Séba, but the organizers asked her to go “so as not to escalate the situation,” the journalist said.
The Urgences Panafricaniste website describes itself as “an African, geopolitico-humanitarian organization specializing on issues related to sovereignty, neo-colonialism and the promotion of social justice.” It was founded in December 2015 in Dakar, Senegal, before expanding to French-speaking Africa and Guyana, according to the same source.
Speaking by phone to CPJ, Idrissa Birba, the chair of Nouveaux Droits de L’homme, a local press freedom and human rights watchdog, condemned the expulsion of the TV5 journalist from the meeting, adding, “when you are a true pan-Africanist, you should avoid such things.”
Guézouma Sanogo, president of the Association of Journalists of Burkina, told CPJ by phone that the expulsion of the TV5 journalist is “a serious attack on the freedom of the press, [which was] dearly won by the people of Burkina, often at the price of human sacrifice.” Sanogo added that journalists working for French media have often been scapegoated by the government.
“This has often been the case,” Sanogo told CPJ. “When there are attacks, they are often summoned to the Ministry of Communication when the authorities do not agree on how they handle the information.”
In a statement posted on TV5 Monde’s website, Yves Bigot, the CEO, expressed solidarity and support for Noaro-Kabré. The Burkinabe Ministry of Communication, Culture, Arts, and Tourism “regretted” the expulsion and reaffirmed its commitment to the freedom of the press, according to a statement.
Boris Pingdwendé Guissou, a representative of COPA-BF and the national coordinator of Urgences Panafricanistes in Burkina Faso, asked CPJ via messaging app to forward written questions. CPJ’s message with those questions was marked read but was not answered. CPJ also contacted Séba via a messaging app but did not receive a reply.