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Article: Burkina Faso suspends BBC, VOA radio broadcasts over killings coverage

Burkina Faso suspends BBC, VOA radio broadcasts over killings coverage

Burkina Faso suspends BBC, VOA radio broadcasts over killings coverage

PHOTO CAPTION: Illustrative photo — Burkinabe Soldiers return fire during a squad attack scenario while participating in Flintlock 20 near Thies, Senegal, Feb. 16, 2020. (U.S. photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)



(Reuters) -Burkina Faso has suspended the radio broadcasts of BBC Africa and the U.S-funded Voice of America (VOA) for two weeks over their coverage of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report accusing the army of extrajudicial killings, authorities said late on Thursday.

In the report based on its own investigation, the rights watchdog said the West African country's military summarily executed about 223 villagers, including at least 56 children, in February as part of a campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with jihadist militants.

HRW said the Burkinabe army has repeatedly committed mass atrocities against civilians in the name of fighting terrorism, and it called on authorities to investigate the massacres.

The country's communication council said HRW's report contained "peremptory and tendentious" declarations against the army likely to create public disorder and it would suspend the programmes of the broadcasters over their coverage of the story.

Authorities also said in a statement they had ordered internet service providers to suspend access to the websites and other digital platforms of the BBC, VOA and Human Rights Watch from Burkina Faso.

"VOA stands by its reporting about Burkina Faso and intends to continue to fully and fairly cover events in that country," Acting VOA Director John Lippman said in a statement.

"The Voice of America strictly adheres to the principles of accurate, balanced and comprehensive journalism, therefore, we ask the government of Burkina Faso to reconsider this troubling decision."

HRW conducted its investigation after a regional prosecutor said in March that about 170 people were executed by unidentified assailants during attacks on the villages of Komsilga, Nodin and Soro.

"We are deeply disturbed by reports of the killing of large numbers of civilians, including children... in an overall context of fighting between armed groups and Burkinabe forces," the U.N. human rights office said in a statement.

"Perpetrators need to be held accountable and victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations must be upheld," the office said, adding that it was also concerned by the temporary suspension of the two media outlets.

Burkina Faso is one of several Sahel nations that have been struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that have spread from neighbouring Mali since 2012, killing thousands and displacing millions.

Frustrations over authorities' failure to protect civilians have contributed to two coups in Mali, two in Burkina Faso and one in Niger since 2020.

(Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Emma Farge; Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson)



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