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Pirate Radio Station Provided Info During Burkina Faso Coup

Formation of Radio Resistance helped bring a quick resolution to military coup

When soldiers loyal to former Burinka Faso president Blaise Compaoré staged a military coup against interim President Michel Kafando on Sept. 16, they took over Radio Television du Burkina, the state-owned national broadcaster, and sent soldiers to stop privately owned media outlets in Ouagadougou from broadcasting.

To help keep the public informed with developments, a group of journalists and civil society activists set up a pirate radio station called Radio Resistance.

Radio Resistance’s first broadcast took place on Sept. 18 and was a speech from Moumina Cheriff Sy, a journalist elected president of the National Transitional Council, which called on the people of Burkina Faso to march against the coup.

Soldiers behind the coup attempted to shutdown Radio Resistance by removing or destroying transmitters at known radio stations, as well as threatening and intimidating journalists, according to news reports.

On Sept. 19, soldiers raided the home of Charlemagne Abissi, president of the national union of independent broadcasters, and seized the Radio Resistance transmitters. But reports indicate that Radio Resistance had already had a major impact, with its call to resist resulting in people setting up barricades.

On Sept. 23, the soldiers relinquished power and Kafando was reinstated. Reports indicate that 10 people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

As other radio stations have come back on the air, Radio Resistance has ceased broadcasting, but its impact was well regarded.

“[Radio Resistance] became the official radio of the country,” said Basidou Kinda, an investigative journalist from ‘L’Evenement,’ in an article on the Committee to Project Journalists blog. “Without the station, a resolution would not have come this quick.”