Annual Report 2022
Studio Kalangou’s “Tous à la Fada” programme is an important rendez-vous for young people in Niger, providing a place to express themselves. © Apsatou Bagaya / Fondation Hirondelle.

Maintaining social ties in context of Growing tension

In a context of growing political tension where organized armed violence is gaining ground and freedom of the press is threatened, Fondation Hirondelle is adapting its programmes in the Sahel to combat misinformation and train West African journalists in conflict prevention.

The context in the Sahel countries remained unstable in 2022. On the security front, various armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS) continued to operate in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, targeting civilians and regular armed forces. In northern Burkina Faso, nearly 40% of the territory has fallen under the control of armed groups, and attacks on villages have killed more than 100 civilians. The same is true in Mali and Niger, with a concentration of attacks around the regions of Gao, Menaka, Mopti and Tillabéri. With both armed violence and climate change, people in the Sahel are seeing their environment change dramatically.

Over the past year, floods have killed hundreds of people in the region, displaced thousands more, and destroyed more than one million hectares of cultivated land. The low productivity of the land and rising prices of food and basic goods have aggravated the food crisis in the region. Average annual inflation reached 4.2% in 2022, the highest rate in the last ten years. In addition, there is political instability in Mali and Burkina Faso. The latter experienced two coups in January and September 2022.

The narrowing of civic space and a climate of repression against the media have become more pronounced. In April 2022, international media outlets France 24 and RFI were forced to stop broadcasting in Mali. In November, the Malian channel Joliba TV News was also suspended by the authorities for defamatory statements. In Burkina Faso, RFI was also suspended from the country in December. Misinformation and hate speech against government opponents have found new ways to manifest themselves, through social platforms.

The fragility of the region’s media is at an all-time high, and there is a widespread risk that extremist rhetoric will be relayed without any critical distance. The threat of suspension hangs over those who want to continue providing independent information. Yet the role of the media in the prevention of multifaceted crises is crucial. This requires reliable and inclusive information, accessible to as many people as possible, and the highlighting of concrete initiatives that strengthen the resilience of communities.

To support the media in the region, Fondation Hirondelle launched a “Media and Violence Prevention in the Sahel” programme in 2022. This programme, financed by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE), is aimed at professional journalists from seven French-speaking West African countries: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. For one year, a group of 25 journalists, including 7 women, will benefit from theoretical and practical training, composed of four individual teaching blocks and support from the Fondation’s editorial expert.

There is a need for reliable information, which can be met by existing initiatives such as the serious and reflective network of radio stations supported by Fondation Hirondelle (Studio Tamani in Mali and Studio Kalangou in Niger). The state propaganda machines can muzzle their voice, yet it exists and should be maintained.
Extract from the study “Civilian-Jihadist Interactions in Mali and Niger» Research Findings and Policy Lessons – By Ferdaous Bouhlel and Yvan Guichaoua – University of Kent.

As for the three Fondation Hirondelle media present in this region, Studio Tamani (Mali), Studio Kalangou (Niger) and Studio Yafa (Burkina Faso), they have adapted their programmes to fight against disinformation, misinformation and propaganda. Several short, accessible programmes in local languages have been set up to deconstruct false information and fill the information void. These local programmes, broadcast by a network of more than 180 media partners, constitute reference points for the populations in this extremely fragile context.