The non-government organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has denounced the killing of Spanish journalists David Beriáin and Roberto Fraile together with Rory Young, a Zambian-born Irish conservationist. The journalists were on an anti-poaching mission in Burkina Faso.
War reporter David Beriáin and cameraman Roberto Fraile were ambushed when the government convoy they were accompanying was attacked Monday morning on the road leading to the Pama national park in the east of the country.
RSF is appalled to learn that two Spanish journalists were killed yesterday in an armed attack in eastern Burkina Faso. This latest tragedy for journalism is another reminder of the considerable risks involved in reporting in Africa’s Sahel region, the organization said.
They were travelling with the convoy intending to cover its operations against poachers. This park is located near the tri-border Sahel zone – Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso – where several armed groups are active.
“The convoy came across a position held by terrorists who opened fire,” the Burkinabe authorities said in a communique. They also said an Irish citizen may have been one of the victims, but gave no further details.
“The death of these reporters while reporting is a new tragedy for journalism,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It speaks to the exceptional courage of these media professionals and the very significant risks to which they are exposed while trying to cover this region for us. We address messages of support to all those close to them and their media outlets.”
The security conditions for reporters and media operating in the Sahel have not improved since the 2013 murders of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale. Many parts of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are hard to access and journalists who try are exposed to great danger.
The same goes for journalists in the Central African Republic (CAR), where vast swathes of the country are not under government control. Shortly after arriving in the CAR in July 2018 to investigate the presence of Russian mercenaries, Russian reporters Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko and Alexander Rastorguyev were murdered in such obscure circumstances that RSF called for an independent international enquiry into their deaths.
According to the latest World Press Freedom Index, published on 20 April, Africa continues to be the world’s most dangerous area for journalists. These two deaths bring the number of journalists killed in Africa since 2016 to 33 – and to three since the start of the year. Burkina Faso is ranked 37th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
Reporters Without Borders said: “David Beriáin and Robert Fraile have been murdered while working on one of their great reports on nature protection. Despite our sadness, we are proud of their commitment to the most difficult and forgotten realities.”
On Tuesday, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said 44-year-old David Beriáin, a reporter, and 47-year-old Roberto Fraile, a photographer, were believed to have been murdered on Monday after they were identified from an image provided by Burkinabe authorities.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Tuesday afternoon: “We have confirmation of the worst possible news. All our love to the family and loved ones of David Beriáin and Roberto Fraile, who were murdered in Burkina Faso. And also our recognition of those who, like them, practise brave and essential journalism daily in conflict zones.”
Early on Wednesday morning, the Irish government confirmed that Rory Young, a Zambian-born Irish citizen who worked as a ranger, guide and anti-poaching strategist and trainer, had also been killed in the attack. “Mr Young was part of a group that on Monday morning was attacked by unknown assailants in the eastern part of Burkina Faso,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
No group has claimed responsibility yet. Insurgents linked to the Islamic State terror group and al-Qaida have led a campaign of violence across West Africa’s Sahel region and devastated ordinary life in Burkina Faso, where a million people are displaced. And attacks on civilians and security forces by jihadist groups are a daily occurrence across the Sahel, where security crises have been fuelled by a complex alignment of political instability, economic deprivation and marginalization.
Earlier this month, the UN said the worsening violence in Burkina Faso had led to one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises, with 3 million people displaced across the Sahel.