September 1, 2000
President Alpha Oumar Konaré
Palais de la Presidence
Bamako, Republic of Mali
VIA FAX: +223.467.785
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely disturbed by a National Assembly member’s recent attempt to strangle journalist Chahana Takiou of the private biweekly newspaper L’Independant.
This bizarre incident occurred August 30 inside the National Assembly building in the capital, Bamako, CPJ sources say. Takiou was apparently reporting a story when Mamadou Gassama Diaby, a member of parliament from the ruling Democratic Alliance of Mali (ADEMA), assaulted him. Diaby punched and kicked Takiou several times before seizing him by the neck and attempting to throttle him.
Fortunately, several people present at the scene, including other MPs, intervened and rescued the journalist, who had almost lost consciousness. Takiou was later taken to the National Assembly infirmary where he was treated for concussion and other injuries. Takiou has reportedly filed a complaint against MP Mamadou Gassama Diaby for “willful blows and injuries.”
The motive for Diaby’s thuggish behavior remains unclear. According to CPJ sources, however, the assault may have resulted from an article on corruption within ADEMA that Takiou had published in a recent edition of L’Independent. Titled “Scandal at the National Assembly,” Takiou’s article also alleged a sharp increase in cases of threats against journalists by politicians in recent months.
As an independent organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is alarmed by this trend, of which the senseless assault on Takiou appears to be a clear example. We are especially concerned because Mali has until recently had an exemplary record of respect for press freedom. Just last week, Your Excellency was one of only a few African leaders who publicly called on Liberian president Charles Taylor to release four international journalists who had been jailed on trumped-up espionage charges.
CPJ hopes that your government will apply the same high ethical standard within Mali, by punishing this assault on press freedom to the full extent of the law. We also urge you to condemn the attack publicly and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all journalists working in the country.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.
Ann K. Cooper