Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Burkina Faso
As of December 31, 1998

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The December 13 death of Norbert Zongo, publisher of the independent weekly newspaper L'Independant and the president of the Society of Private Press Editors, raised the hostilities brewing among Burkina Faso's opposition politicians, independent media, and President Blaise Compaore's ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) to the level of direct confrontation.

Initial official reports that Zongo had died in a car accident were challenged by the public and the press, who immediately called for an impartial commission to investigate the circumstances of his death. Although Zongo's body and those of his three companions were found charred beyond recognition inside a car whose interior was completely burnt, the outside of the vehicle was untouched by the fire. The vehicle was riddled with what appeared to be bullet holes. The combined pressure of widespread demonstrations, the presence of more than 50,000 mourners at Zongo's funeral, and an international outcry forced the government to name an investigative commission. But at year's end, local human rights groups challenged the independence of the appointees.

Reports that Zongo was preparing to publish articles implicating the president's brother in his chauffeur's murder have fanned the flames of distrust of the government, which is widely regarded as pursuing its own financial interests at the expense of its impoverished citizens.

Few critics expected Compaore to evolve from the leader of one of Africa's bloodiest coup d'états in 1987 into a genuine supporter of multiparty democracy. And many believe recent events are proof that the CDP intends to stall the implementation of democratic reforms mandated by the country's 1991 constitution. In November, Compaore won a second seven-year term in elections that the opposition declared were fraught with irregularities, and influenced by CDP patronage and manipulation of the state media. The independent media -- comprised of a dozen private radio stations, one television station, and a number of newspapers and magazines -- have been outspoken in their criticism of the CDP government, decrying the fact that former military junta officers dominate the party leadership.
Attacks on the Press in Burkina Faso in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
12/13/98 Norbert Zongo, L'Independant Killed

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