Lamine Traoré, a reporter with the privately owned Radio Oméga, and Ahmed Newton Barry, former editor-in-chief of the privately owned newspaper L’Evènement, received separate, anonymous threats via WhatsApp groups in early December 2022, according to press reports and both journalists, who are based in Burkina Faso and spoke to CPJ by phone.
Traoré, who also is a correspondent for U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America, told CPJ that the threats against him related to a December 1 radio report he produced about a meeting between Burkina Faso’s transitional president, Ibrahim Traoré, and civil society organizations.
The journalist said the media was not invited to the meeting and he did not attend, but participants informed him that the transitional president gave a speech that mentioned an attempted coup against the government. When the journalist broadcast this on Radio Oméga, government supporters began posting threats against him in WhatsApp groups, copies of which CPJ reviewed, calling for people to protest against the journalist’s work. One person claiming to be a supporter of the president made this anonymous threat: “Everyone must go out and oppose what Lamine Traoré is saying. I don’t know this man, but I think he has strange and harmful intentions … If the journalists do not play their role, we will have to hit the table. The enemies of the people, those who are able to put the people on the wrong road, like Lamine Traoré, must be corrected.”
Separately, Barry told CPJ that the threats against him followed his December 3 Facebook post explaining legal flaws in the government’s December 2022 decision to suspend French broadcaster Radio France Internationale.
In one video posted in WhatsApp groups and translated by Barry for CPJ, an anonymous person who identified as a government supporter and spoke in the widely spoken language Mooré, called on the transitional president to kill people like Barry: “I ask Captain Ibrahim Traoré to kill people like (Ahmed Newton Barry) who are not human beings but animals.”
In a December 5 statement, the Burkina Faso government expressed concern about the threats.
In June 2022, Barry also received threats, after he criticized work between the Malian government and a Russian mercenary company.
Reached by CPJ over the phone, Jean Victoire Ouédraogo, the communications director of the Burkina Faso prime minister, declined to comment and said local media groups would be better placed to comment on the threats.