OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in Burkina Faso’s capital in January, followed by a raid on a military armory by dissident Burkinabe soldiers, the country’s newly elected government is ramping up security. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore promises to continue reinforcing democratic freedoms, but already some of his government’s reactions have been heavy-handed or inept, raising concerns about how liberties can be preserved in an atmosphere of uncertainty and tension.
In February, for example, the independent newspaper in Ouagadougou, L’Evenement, published an article on the armory attack, which was carried out by recalcitrant members of the former presidential guard loyal to ex-President Blaise Compaore, who was forced from office after massive protests in October 2014. The article included a map of former arms depots. The official media regulatory agency promptly suspended the newspaper’s publication for a month, claiming it violated military secrecy.
Many Burkinabe saw an overreaction. Lookman Sawadogo, president of the association of private newspaper editors, described the decision as “arbitrary.” There are no clear regulations outlining what constitutes a “military secret,” he explained to me. In any case, L’Evenement was never given a proper hearing before the suspension was issued.