Article 19, British human rights organisation has condemned the recent terrorist attacks on journalists in Mali and Burkina Faso, which resulted in the deaths of three people and the kidnapping of another.
The group, which has a specific mandate and focus on the defence and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information, said the murder of two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist, as well as the disappearance of a Burkinabe in eastern Burkina Faso on April 26, are deplorable.
According to the group, the government of Burkina Faso must immediately mount an independent, impartial and credible investigation into the killings and disappearance, bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure all truth on this tragic incident is made public.
The two journalists were working on an anti-poaching documentary at the time of their deaths. In Mali, Olivier Dubois, a French freelance Journalist, and correspondent for several international and local media, was kidnapped on April 8, though this was only made public on May 5.
Consequently, ARTICLE 19 urged the authorities to do everything they can, in line with international human rights and humanitarian standards to ensure Olivier Dubois returns home safe.
Deputy Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa, Alfred Nkuru Bulakali said: “We are deeply dismayed and saddened by the death of the two journalists and the kidnapping of another, attacked while carrying out their work in two separate incidents within a matter of days. We extend our sincere condolences to all the families of the victims. We call for joint efforts to investigate the cases, find and bring the perpetrators to justice and to secure the release of the journalist in captivity”; Journalists and activists have the right to exercise their profession in complete safety even in sensitive areas.
The murder of the two journalists violates the right to life, the independence of media and is to deprive the public of the right to information.
In a joint statement, following the attack in Burkina Faso, the governments of France, Germany, Italy and Spain reaffirmed their pledge to continue support to security forces’ operations in the region with regard to the respect of judicial rules and human rights.
The delegation of European Union in Burkina Faso condemned the crimes, noting, “terrorists were flag bearers of obscurantism that destroys everything including the freedom of expression and the right to truth”
“We are now expecting the results of investigations to be made public, the perpetrators caught and brought to justice, the journalist in captivity to be released and concrete measures taken to protect free expression, access to information and other human rights and to strengthen transparent governance and democracy in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel,” Alfred Bulakali said.
Also, in a short video released to the public in the early hours of May 5, Dubois explained that he had been abducted in Gao in northern Mali by the “Groupe de soutien à l’Islam et aux musulmans” (GSIM), a terrorist group. The journalist, who had not been heard from since 8 April, was kidnapped while he was on assignment to interview a local jihadist commander in Gao.
In France, Dubois’ home country, anti-terrorist prosecution authorities launched a preliminary investigation into “kidnapping by an organised gang and in connection with a terrorist enterprise”.
On April 26, two Spanish journalists, David Beriáin, the founder of the production company 93 meters, which specialises in documentary and factual programmes in hostile environments, and Roberto Fraile, a cameraman, and Irish national, Rory Young, the co-founder and chief executive of environment conservation organisation Chengeta Wildlife, were killed after an armed attack on their convoy in the area of Fada N’Gournma-Pamala in eastern Burkina Faso. An unnamed Burkinabé national was also reported missing.
The team was part of an anti-poaching forest patrol working alongside Burkina Faso soldiers and was making an anti-poaching documentary when they came across unidentified men in two pick-up trucks and several motorbikes, who opened fire.
A day later, the Burkina Faso security forces found the two journalists and the Irish environmental activist dead in bushland, their bodies riddled with bullets.
Local civil society sources said the fourth person has recovered its freedom, but the circumstances of his release are not yet clearly known.
According to international media sources, the Jnim, a coalition of jihadist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda, allegedly posted an audio file on the Internet claiming it carried out the attack and saying they were not necessarily targeting the journalists.
Although ARTICLE 19 cannot confirm the authenticity of the file, it however extended its solidarity to journalists and media who work in difficult security conditions in the Sahel and called for a coordinated, inclusive and multisectoral response to terrorism in that region in line with international human rights and humanitarian law.
Such a response must take into account the public right to information, and thus pay particular attention to the protection of free speech, media, journalists and human rights defenders.