Panafrican News Agency

Mali: Suspension of RFI and France 24 is "attack against freedom and independence of information"(RSF)

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (PANA) - Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) on Thursday denounced an attack against information, which will be prejudicial to Malians and all journalists and media operating in the country, after the Malian government decided to suspend the French media RFI and France24.

On Thursday, the ruling military junta in Mali announced it engaged procedures to suspend the two French international media after revelations on exactions committed by the Malian army and their Russian reservists.  

"The journalists working in Mali are from now on warned. The subjects that anger the ruling junta will lead to threat, expulsions or suspensions. In a communiqué signed by Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, minister of Territorial administration and Decentralization, the Malian junta ordered the future suspension of RFI and France 24 after investigation in two parts into the first cited media published on 14 and 15 March on alleged summary executions and pillaging committed by the Malian armed forces and the Russian security forces now accompanying them within the framework of the fight against terrorist groups in the country," said RSF in a communiqué.

The suspension also concerns the social networks of RFI and France 24. The Malian media are also banned from publishing their contents.

"We strongly condemn this decision which compromises the independence and freedom of information in Mali,’’ said the director of the Africa office of RSF, Arnaud Froger.

This decision sanctions international media, but it is also an attack against Mali and the Malians themselves. The journalists and media operating in the country will be afraid of dealing with sensitive issues and populations will be deprived of essential news," said RSF.

According to the same sources, the freedom of press continues deteriorating since the beginning of the year in the country. An obscure group of the junta, presenting themselves as the “Collective for the defence of soldiers” (CDM), had accused the RFI and France 24 correspondents of fake news and disinformation before calling for the withdrawal of their accreditation through two communiqués issued over the past months.

On 7 February, the journalist of Jeune Afrique, Benjamin Roger, was expelled less than 24 hours after his arrival to the Malian territory, said RSF which stressed that the authorities had justified this dismissal with a problem of accreditation, though he was holding valid visa and that the new process to obtain authorization was established only after his expulsion.

These new modalities are particularly intrusive and prejudicial to the secrecy of sources. To get accredited, journalists must indicate in details the issues they will deal with and the people they will meet.  

As Mali is now close to Russia, particularly by deploying mercenaries of the Wagner paramilitary company, the increase in the pressures and sanctions targeting particularly French journalists and media sadly reminds of what was observed in Central African Republic (CAR).

The arrival of Russians in the political and security spheres from 2018 in the country has also materialized itself by pressures and sanctions targeting journalists as well as disinformation campaigns targeting France and its nationals, including reporters. 

Mali occupies the 99th position out of 180 in the world 2021 press freedom ranking released by RSF. 

-0- PANA TNDD/IS/MSA/RA 17March2022