The Another

    A letter by expelled journalist Sophie Douce



    Amadou, I am ashamed. I left without even saying goodbye. I don’t know how to reach you. You don’t have WhatsApp and contacting you on your phone line has become too risky. Everything has happened so fast since that call from an unknown number on the morning of March 31… It seems like yesterday. “I’m a police lieutenant with the State Security Directorate,” a man warned me. “We would like to ask you some questions. I can’t talk to you about it [over the phone]. Come, we’ll explain.”

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    Soon after, I was in an office lit by a white neon light, on the premises of the headquarters of the Burkina Faso national police. The lieutenant was wearing a colorful boubou, without a badge. He had an expressionless face. I did too. I thought of you, your family and this country that I didn’t want to leave. He asked me about my work, my travels, my reporting. I evaded the questions. It annoyed him. He scribbled on his notepad, and then, after an hour, got up to lead me toward the exit. As I set off again on my motorcycle, in the middle of the traffic jams of Ouaga, I could still hear his last words: “I take note of this.”

    The day wasn’t over. At 9 pm, I learned that the same officer had gone to my colleague from;[the newspaper] Release, Agnes Faivre. “I have 24 hours to leave the territory,” she told me. That night, I waited for my phone to ring. The hours passed without a single call.


    Amadou, you had felt the noose tightening lately. Since the September 2022 putsch, the second in eight months, your country was closing itself, especially from us journalists. The junta cut off Radio France Internationale (RFI), before suspending the broadcasting of France 24, two media organizations that are widely followed by the population. To counter the terrorist attacks that have plagued the country for seven years, Captain Ibrahim Traoré (the self-proclaimed head of state) has set himself the goal of “reclaiming” the roughly 40% of the territory that is controlled by jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization (IS). With the violence worsening, the authorities are banking on the enlistment of tens of thousands of civilian auxiliaries to support the army and are trying to silence critical voices.

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    Over the months, fear was gradually instilled into journalists. I myself began to weigh my words more often when writing, to watch for sidelong glances, to change my route going home. After the suspension of RFI, the correspondents of the international press had been summoned. “Each time a media outlet will communicate on behalf of our enemy or to discourage our fellow citizens we will react with the same firmness,” said the government spokesman. We were warned: The time had come to choose our “side.”

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