To enhance the quality of private and alternative media, DW Akademie in Burkina Faso focuses on working with young journalists and following a sustainable strategy for local and regional radio stations.
Burkina Faso's media landscape has changed since the popular uprising at the end of October 2014. Since the resignation and flight of the country’s long-serving president, Blaise Compaoré, the media have begun to make use of their newfound freedom. The radio station Radio Oméga 103.9, for example, rose to prominence in Burkina Faso's media landscape largely because of its professional and balanced coverage during the uprising.
In September 2015, the transitional parliament modified parts of the press code. The new laws now include the official recognition of the legal status of media outlets, tax exemption for professional material and equipment, and the increase of government subsidies for both private and state-run media. The most important of the reforms is the decriminalization of press offences. However, the fines that were introduced in exchange for lifting prison sentences are so unreasonably high that they threaten the sustainability of national media organizations and have led to restrictions to freedom of expression and renewed self-censorship.
How the media situation in Burkina Faso will develop under the leadership of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was elected in December 2015, is uncertain, especially since he has integrated critical opinion leaders and media representatives into his government. One development under the new government that calls for careful monitoring is the fact that the state media regulator, the Higher Council for Communication (CSC), is increasingly tightening its grip on media and interfering in the work of media outlets and media professionals. In February 2016, for example, a one-month suspension of publication was imposed on the independent daily L’Evènement for having allegedly betrayed state secrets.
The state-owned radio and television broadcaster, Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina (RTB), can still boast the broadest coverage in the country. There are also numerous private TV stations, such as BF1 and Burkina Info. Only a small, intellectual elite in Burkina Faso reads newspapers. While the internet steadily grows in popularity, radio remains the most important medium, particularly in rural areas.
Even though things are looking up in Burkina Faso, times are still tough for journalists. Media companies don’t pay well, so most journalists depend on the extra income they get from commissioned work. As a result, critical and ethical principles fall by the wayside. Broad segments of Burkina Faso’s population – mostly women and people living in rural areas – cannot fully make use of their right to access comprehensive and balanced public information.
In order to strengthen the quality of private and alternative media, DW Akademie in Burkina Faso focuses on young journalists and a sustainable strategy for local and regional radio stations. Together with the University of Ouagadougou, DW Akademie helps develop hands-on training for the journalism studies program and advises the journalism and communications department on curriculum reform and the introduction of multimedia content.
DW Akademie’s projects in collaboration with local radio stations aim to increase listener participation and extend journalistic networks beyond national borders (to Mali and Niger). These workshops are carried out in cooperation with the Réseau d’Initiatives de Journalistes (RIJ) and focus on conflict-sensitive reporting on topics related to, for example, refugees and terrorism.
With its long-term Africa-wide project, "African Stories", DW Akademie also helps a television team from Burkina Faso produce TV reports. To improve the level of professionalism and the sustainability of the country’s media sector, DW Akademie is advising media companies on organizational and financial restructuring. In specialized training workshops, DW Akademie also helps more local professionals acquire qualifications needed for work as media trainers.
Funding: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country coordinator: Carine Debrabandère
Locations: Ouagadougou, Ziniaré, OUahigouya, Dano, Fada N’Gourma
Local partners: University of Ouagadougou (Département Communication et Journalisme & Institut Panafricain d'Étude et de Recherche sur les Médias, l'Information de la Communication), Centre National de Presse - Norbert Zongo, Réseau d’Initiatives de Journalistes, Radio Manivelle, Radio Tin Tua, Radio La Voix du Paysan, Radio Ka-Koaadb Yam Venégré
Main focus: Qualification, professionalism and economic sustainability of the media sector, civic engagement, participation of disadvantaged population groups, local participatory and community media, journalism education/curricula development, conflict and media/conflict-sensitive reporting, business models and economic sustainability, professionalism and networks in journalism