Burkina Faso has suspended the BBC and Voice of America radio networks from broadcasting for airing a rights report accusing the army of attacks on civilians in its battle against jihadists.

The British and US radio stations are the latest international media organisations to be targeted since Captain Ibrahim Traore seized power in the West African country in a September 2022 coup.

"The programmes of these two international radio networks broadcasting from Ouagadougou have been suspended for a period of two weeks," the communications authority (CSC) announced late on Thursday.

It said the decision had been taken because BBC Africa and the VOA had aired and also published a report on their digital platforms "accusing the Burkina army of abuses against the civilian population".

The CSC said the report contained "hasty and biased declarations without tangible proof against the Burkinabe army".

International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday that soldiers in Burkina Faso's jihadist-hit north had killed at least 223 villagers, including 56 children, in two revenge attacks on February 25.

Burkinabe authorities, contacted by AFP, have not commented on the accusations.

The country has been battling attacks from groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State since a jihadist insurgency swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015.

Since then, around 20,000 people have been killed in Burkina Faso and around two million have been displaced.

VOA said on Friday it had sought reactions to the HRW report "from several Burkinabe officials" but received no response and intended "to continue to fully and fairly cover activities in the country".

- Official warning -

The CSC said it had "directed" internet service providers to suspend access to the sites and other digital platforms of the BBC, VOA and HRW from Burkinabe territory.

It also said the "approach" of the BBC and VOA "undermines the cardinal principles of information processing in that it constitutes disinformation likely to bring discredit to the Burkinabe army".

It said this could also create disturbances to public order.

The communications authority urged all other media to refrain from carrying the article, warning that any offenders could face sanctions.

Burkina Faso has already targeted a number of French media outlets with suspensions, bans or the expulsion of foreign correspondents.

Under Traore, the junta has distanced Burkina Faso from France, which ruled the country until 1960.

In September, the junta-led government suspended the print and online operations of French media outlet Jeune Afrique in the country after the publication of two articles about tensions within the military.

In June, it had suspended French TV channel LCI for three months.

In March 2023, it also suspended all broadcasts by the France 24 news channel a few months after also suspending Radio France Internationale (RFI). It accused both public media outlets of having relayed jihadist leaders' messages.

The following month the correspondents of French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde were expelled.

Sadibou Marong of media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the VOA and BBC suspensions were "abusive and constitute a flagrant violation of the right to information".

The media outlets had only published "information of general interest for the Burkinabe population", he said in an email to AFP.