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Crackdown on Reporters in Burkina Faso Raises Concern - 2002-08-14

Journalists in the West African nation of Burkina Faso are expressing concern over what they say is a government crackdown on the media.

Journalists in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, on Wednesday protested recent actions by security forces against reporters, including the arrest last week of a journalist who works for the French news agency, Agence-France Presse.

The AFP journalist, Christophe Koffi, was arrested by security forces after he wrote about the death of Balla Keita, an Ivory Coast opposition politician who was murdered in Burkina Faso earlier this month. He was released on Friday. The association said a number of other journalists have been detained in recent days and questioned about the Keita affair and other matters.

Association President Jean-Claude Medah told VOA that concerns over the security forces' treatment of journalists has prompted his group to publish a declaration demanding that the government respect the rights of journalists.

"Mr. Medah said his group believes the recent arrests of journalists are a threat to press freedoms. Paramilitary police, he said, raided the home of the correspondent of the French news agency and confiscated his work and his materials. That, he said, was a flagrant attack on the rights of the free press," Mr. Medah said.

Tensions have persisted in Burkina Faso amid what human rights advocates say has been the government's failure to explain the 1998 death of journalist Norbert Zongo.

Mr. Zongo's charred body was found after he reported on the killing of a chauffeur employed by the brother of President Blaise Compaore.

The Zongo case has prompted marches that have drawn thousands to the streets in Ouagadougou in the years since his death.