The French media is facing a series of crises in Africa’s Sahel region, as multiple countries in the area have suspended the broadcasting of their channels and radio stations. Notably, Niger has recently joined its neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso in blocking French media outlets, including the international channel “France 24” and the radio station RFI.
The suspension of “France 24” and RFI in Niger was confirmed by the French government on Thursday, shortly after the country’s recent coup. Both media outlets were taken off-air in the country, leading to an official statement from the French Foreign Ministry condemning what they deemed a “violation of media freedom.”
RFI broadcasts in Niger via FM waves and shortwaves in French, Hausa, and Fulfulde languages. It also reaches a wide audience through satellite transmission and has a network of partner radio stations that broadcast its programs in the same languages.
In 2022, approximately 1.9 million people in Niger, around 18% of the population, tuned in to RFI every week, making it a leading international radio station in the country. Similarly, “France 24” has a significant weekly viewership, reaching a quarter of Niger’s population.
The coup leaders accused France of seeking a “military intervention” to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, raising tensions between the two nations. France has approximately 1,500 troops stationed in Niger, while the United States also has 1,100 troops actively engaged in the fight against extremists in the country.
The suspension of French media outlets in the Sahel region has sparked concerns over media freedom and the availability of independent information in these countries.