Samuel Kiendrebeogo: 1949-2012

By Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator on January 6, 2012 5:12 PM ET

The African media community lost a central voice this week with the passing of Samuel Kiendrebeogo, the veteran host of weekly media magazine Médias d'Afrique et D'Ailleurs on Voice of America's French service. Sam, as he was known, died while vacationing in his native Burkina Faso. He was 63.

Most of Sam's listeners probably only knew him by his voice, which I had gotten used to hearing over the phone when he called to request interviews. I had the privilege of meeting Sam a handful of times during my visits to the VOA studios in Washington, D.C. A warm but austere man whose calm put me at ease, he had quick wits, sharp mind and a wry sense of humor. He was an old school journalist.

Following journalism training in France, Sam began his career in 1972 as a presenter with the state broadcaster when his country was still called Haute Volta, he said in a 2005 interview with Guinean news website He held various posts in state media, enduring demotion after a 1983 coup, and returning as editor-in-chief of the state newspaper following the 1987 coup that ended the revolutionary regime of Cpt. Thomas Sankara. He subsequently headed a journalism school, Centre de formation professionnelle de l'information (CFPI), before applying for a journalism fellowship at Boston University. During the fellowship, he did an internship with VOA. He returned to Burkina Faso until VOA offered him a position in 1993.

In addition to covering CPJ's advocacy in Africa, Sam helped me contact several veteran African journalists of his class who contributed to our 2010 guest blog series on the 50 years of press in independent francophone African countries.

During his career, Sam interviewed dignitaries and heads of states, and he insisted on adherence to the highest standards of journalism. "Due to the effects of authoritarian states in Africa, there are also colleagues who are afraid to address sensitive topics. We understand them, but we cannot depart from the rules of objectivity, fairness and balanced information," he declared in the 2005 interview. "When a subject is food for discussion, we let both sides of the story be heard. It's up to the listener to draw his own conclusions."

UPDATE: The headline of this blog post has been corrected to reflect that Kiendrebeogo was born in 1949, not 1941 as posted previously.


I have been listening to him since the 1990s and I can imagine I am going to miss it now. May Sam's sole rest in eternal peace.


C'est avec tristesse que j'ai appris la nouvelle, j'ai connu cet homme par sa voix sur les fréquences de la radio Ouaga FM que j'écoute chaque matin. Je présente mes condoléances à tous les journalistes de la VOA, ses collègues, ami(es), sa famille et tout ceux qui ont connu Samuel et qui l'ont porté dans leur cœur.

I have had some contacts with the VOA, at the English desk. I don't know much about Sam, but I am convinced from the report of Keita that he was a journalist, made of good stuff. Sleep in peace big brother, while we alive promise to continue with your legacy of balanced reporting, no matter whose ox is gored.

WALTER WILSON NANA January 7, 2012 9:29:25 AM ET

Sam was truly a journalist par excellence. When I joined the VOA there was no one as welcoming as Sam. He taught me a lot about journalism, the VOA and in most situations went out of his way to make others comfortable and to help them. I'm so pained that he had to go this way. I saw Sam a few days before he left to go home and he was excited, so excited that I'm not sure what to make of the way he left this world. Anyway, only God knows. Rest in eternal peace my friend. Thank you for the guidance and all. God surely takes the best. Condolences to your wife and daughter.

I knew his voice back in the day when i was in middle school in Ouagadougou, i guess around 93. I did not know that he was from my country until i went overseas for my studies.Sometime i ask myself how many heros we have around us. Burkina Faso has a lot of great people but unknown. i have read about his death from Burkina 24,one of the newest online media in burkina Faso. Rest in peace.for those who read french here is the article

C'est avec un coeur lourd que j'apprends cette triste nouvelle. A tous les collegues de la VOA et a sa famille, mes condoleances les plus attristees.

Samuel, your voice will be truly missed! He was a great journalist and an inspiring figure. RIP!

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