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CPJ: Burkina Faso journalist Ahmed Newton Barry threatened

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Dakar, June 30, 2022 – Authorities in Burkina Faso should investigate and hold accountable those responsible for threats made against journalist Ahmed Newton Barry and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Barry told CPJ in a phone interview that on June 10 his lawyer sent him an audio clip, then circulating widely in WhatsApp groups, that featured an anonymous voice calling for people to attack Barry’s home.

A joint statement by local press associations called on Burkina Faso authorities to immediately investigate the threatening message and hold those responsible to account.

Barry, the former editor-in-chief of the privately owned L’Evènement newspaper who now appears as a current affairs commentator for a variety of Burkina Faso media outlets, told CPJ that the clip did not cite any specific reason for the threats, but added that he had recently voiced skepticism of a deal between the Malian government and a Russian mercenary company, which would have been seen as provocative to “pro-Russian enthusiasts” in the region.

“Burkina Faso authorities should thoroughly investigate the threatening message against Newton Ahmed Barry that recently circulated on social media, and ensure his safety,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in Johannesburg, South Africa. “The security of journalists in Burkina Faso is tenuous enough without their having to worry about a mob being provoked to attack their homes.”       

In the audio clip, in the local Mooré language which Barry translated for CPJ, the speaker identified Barry by name and then said they would “organize a hundred people and invade his house. We are going to set fire to it and then destroy everything and collect the rubble that is piled up.”

Barry said the threat may be related to comments he made during a May 19 broadcast of “Surface de vérité,” a prime-time program aired by privately owned TV station BF1, in which he criticized the Malian government’s work with the Russian mercenary company.

Barry told CPJ that he had shared a copy of the audio with Harouna Yoda, Burkina Faso’s attorney general.

‘’As soon as we were informed, we contacted the Central Brigade for the fight against cybercrime, which mobilized other subunits to find the person [who made the threats],” Yoda told CPJ in a phone interview, saying that he could not speak further about an ongoing investigation.

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