An office of French broadcaster France 24 is seen in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, in April 2019. Authorities in Burkina Faso indefinitely suspended France 24 over an interview with the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on March 27, 2023. (AFP/Kenzo Tribouillard)

Burkina Faso indefinitely suspends France 24 over Al-Qaeda interview

New York, March 28, 2023 – Authorities in Burkina Faso on Monday indefinitely suspended French public broadcaster France 24 over an interview with the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to news reports and the suspension announcement, which accused the outlet of acting as a communication agency for terrorism and legitimizing hate speech. 

“Authorities in Burkina Faso should reverse their decision to suspend France 24, as well as their previous suspension of French broadcaster RFI, and should allow all people in the country to access the news freely,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Reporting on issues related to terrorism should not trigger blanket indefinite censorship of an entire outlet.”

On March 6, France 24 aired a discussion about their interview with AQIM head Abu Obeida Youssef al-Anabi, also known as Yezid Mebarek. On March 27, France 24 released a statement defending their work, saying they never directly gave the head the floor and presented his comments in journalistic context, and the interview confirmed that AQIM had held journalist Olivier Dubois, who had been abducted in Mali in April 2021 and was released on March 20, 2023. 

As of Tuesday, March 28, France 24’s programming was no longer available on TV or radio in Burkina Faso, but could still be accessed online, according to the outlet and Arnaud Ouédraogo, coordinator of the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO), a Burkina Faso-based news outlet and investigative journalism organization, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

In December 2022, Burkinabe authorities suspended Radio France Internationale, another subsidiary of the French state-owned company France Media Monde, over accusations that the broadcaster relayed an “intimidation message” attributed to a “terrorist leader.”

In March 2022, authorities in Mali suspended both RFI and France 24, accusing them of airing “false allegations” about the country’s military.