In Mali, radio targeted over critical broadcasts in wake of presidential polls

New York, March 12, 2007—A private radio station in the central town of Markala was given an eviction notice by authorities last week, after airing broadcasts critical of President Amadou Toumani Touré ahead of next month’s elections.

Radio Jamakan, housed in the government-owned complex of Office du Niger (ON), an agency managing irrigation projects, was ordered to “surrender the ON premises by March 31,” according to private daily Les Echos in the capital Bamako. The action was linked to the station’s March 3-4 broadcasts of a conference of the FDR party, the main opposition group challenging Touré’s second-term bid in the April 29 presidential election, local journalists told CPJ.

It was the second time in nine months the station based in Markala, 198 miles (318 kilometers) north of Bamako, suffered official reprisal for critical coverage of the government in the lead-up to next month’s presidential election, according to local journalists.

“We are troubled that this eviction notice follows Radio Jamakan’s critical reporting,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “At the very least, authorities should give the radio station sufficient time to find a new office.”

ON Press officer Moustapha Maïga denied a link between the broadcasts and the eviction notice, telling CPJ that all tenants of the 20-building complex, including private Radio Deje, would “eventually” have to abandon the premises to accommodate a large-scale irrigation project. He could not confirm whether any of the other tenants had received similar notices.

“This was a base reaction by ON and I condemn it. It is unreasonable to think that you can move a radio station overnight like a retail clothing store,” Yaya Sangaré, President of the independent broadcasters union (known by its French acronym as URTEL) told CPJ.

Last summer, ON had suddenly rescinded an agreement to supply electricity to the station, which is now operating on a generator, according to local journalists and media reports. The move came two days after the station broadcasted a July 15, 2006 conference of opposition groups critical of Touré, station director Abdoulaye Sagara told CPJ. ON’s decision was prompted by the expensive cost of the service, Maïga told CPJ.