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Burkina Faso2 October 2007

Arson attack on radio host’s car marks escalation in intimidation campaign

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a campaign of death threats against singer and radio host Karim Sama, which took a disturbing new turn with an arson attack on his car on 28 September in Ouagadougou. Also known as “SAM’S K Le Jah,” Sama hosts a successful programme on privately-owned Ouaga FM in which he often criticises President Blaise Compaoré. The programme is popular outside of Boukina Faso as well.

“This campaign to intimidate a committed performer was already outrageous, but it has become much more alarming now that the fanatics threatening him have moved from words to actions,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is time the authorities took this seriously, and identified and punished those responsible for this disgraceful behaviour.”

Sama was presenting his weekly “Roots Rock Reggae” programme on the evening of 28 September when the radio station’s guard came and told him his car was on fire. Sama rushed to the station’s car park and found the rear seat of the car already ablaze and the flames beginning to spread to the rest of the vehicle.

Sama has been receiving threatening email messages since April. The first one, on 18 April, told him to stop saying “nonsense on radio Ouaga FM” and warned him he would die soon. Likening President Compaoré to a “divine blessing,” it called on Sama to stop criticising the president’s “development initiatives” in his programmes.

Sama immediately reported the threatening email to the police in the hope that they could establish who sent it. But no action was taken. Although it said he should “not mention this message on the air on Ouaga FM,” Sama told the press and received the support of journalists’ organisations. The threatening messages continued until the arson attack, about which he also filed a complaint.

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