Burkina Faso: Government Urged To Drop Change To Penal Code


The Government of Burkina Faso is coming under pressure to drop a bill that proposes harsh jail sentences for media seen to “demoralize” the defence or security forces.

The bill has been adopted by parliament but is yet to receive presidential approval. It proposes a jail sentence of up to five years and fines of up to 10 million CFA franc for those found guilty of publishing information that could compromise security or inaccurate information concerning rights abuses, the destruction of property and terrorist acts.

Among those to express concern regarding the move to criminalize the dissemination of information and reporting on security concerns are the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which has called on President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and the Constitutional Council to block its enactment. The CPJ has made the calls on the basis of letters from various media organizations in the country expressing concern over the bill.

CPJ’s Africa program coordinator Angela Quintal has been quoted as stating, "President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and the Constitutional Council should reject changes to Burkina Faso's penal code that criminalize disseminating information and reporting on security concerns, and should also act to remove all threats of jail time for press offenses… Under no circumstances should journalists face imprisonment or crippling financial penalties for their work."

The law has been introduced against a backdrop of conflict between soldiers and militants. However, civil society and activists in the country have accused security forces of summary executions.