Tensions High Between Stations and Authority in Burkina Faso - Radio World

Tensions High Between Stations and Authority in Burkina Faso

Radio broadcasters question the legitimacy of the country’s communications watchdog
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Radio Taanba is a Christian radio station based in Fada-Ngourma
in southeastern Burkina Faso. Photo courtesy Radio Taanba

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — A state of skepticism appears to reign for the 130 radio stations in this West African country.

“I do not know who to turn to,” said Charlemagne Abissi, general manager of Savane FM. “Six out of nine members have disassociated themselves from the Conseil Supérieur de la Communication, the country’s communications authority, causing many to question the authority’s leadership, legitimacy and strength.” After the revolution of October 2014 and before the presidential elections of next October, the climate is tense between radio stations and the CSC.

On May 6, the CSC suspended all political programs featuring live phone-in contributions from listeners for three months. “Abuse and lack of restraint” are words that resonate from those effected. “It’s like someone had lit a red light and we stopped all the traffic,” said Zacharie Legma, director of Radio Taanba. “We are shocked.”

After three weeks of protests, on May 28 the stations took the initiative to begin airing the banned programs again, two days later the CSC lifted its ban.

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Moustapha Thiombiano is the general manager of Horizon FM.
Photo courtesy Horizon FM

Horizon FM CEO Moustapha Thiombiano believes the initial interdiction was unjustified and asserts that everyone should have a right to share their point of view. “My listeners are not thieves and I’m not a policeman,” he said. “We can’t silence them. The people must be able to express themselves.”

The stations are organizing themselves as best they can, given the conditions. “It’s like a pretense of agreement,” they say.

Meanwhile caution governs and stations say they are conscious that malicious comments may be prosecuted. “There is a sort of awareness in the air. However, we must not forget that these very popular shows bring in advertising,” says Abdoulaye Tao, editor of L'Economiste du Faso, a weekly economic publication based in Ouagadougou.

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Ouaga FM celebrated its 15th anniversary in
October 2, 2014. Pictured left to right are Fanta
Kando, Ismaël Ouédraogo and Bagnomboé
Bakiono. Photo courtesy Ouaga FM

On June 30, soldiers of the Regiment of Presidential Security reportedly paid a visit to the newsrooms of Savane FM radio, FM Omega, Ouaga FM and FM Horizon, a move that many consider to be an act of “intimidation and a threat against freedom of expression.”

According to Abissi, the government doesn’t want to make an official decision. “And given the context, of course it is concerning — many things remain unclear,” he concluded.

The CSC declined to comment when contacted by Radio World.

Sébastien Nègre, radio project manager, reports on the industry for Radio World from Casablanca, Morocco.

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