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Burkina Boots French Journalists

FILE: New junta's soldiers stand guard in an armored vehicle in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. taken Oct. 2, 2022.

OUAGADOUGOU, April 2 (Reuters) - Burkina Faso has expelled two French journalists working for newspapers Le Monde and Liberation, the two publications said on Sunday, accusing the authorities of seeking to stifle freedom of speech with an escalating crackdown on foreign media.

Liberation said its correspondent Agnes Faivre and Le Monde's Sophie Douce arrived in Paris early on Sunday after they were summoned separately for questioning by the military authorities on Friday and later notified of their expulsion.

The two are "journalists of perfect integrity, who worked in Burkina Faso legally, with valid visas and accreditations ... We strongly protest against these absolutely unjustified expulsions," Liberation said in a statement on its website.

"These two expulsions mark a new major setback in the freedom to inform on the situation in Burkina Faso," Le Monde Director Jérôme Fenoglio said in a statement.

Douce's reporting "obviously ended up seeming unbearable to the regime of Ibrahim Traoré, transition president for six months," he said.

Liberation said its recent investigation into children and adolescents allegedly being killed in a military barracks had displeased the authorities.

There was no statement from the authorities in Burkina Faso about the expulsions, and they did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On March 27, the government issued a statement dismissing a Liberation report about alleged killings by the Burkinabe military.

The French foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Relations between Paris and Ouagadougou have deteriorated sharply since Burkina Faso's military seized power in a coup in September. The junta has since ordered French troops to withdraw from the country and suspended broadcasts by France's RFI radio and television channel France 24.