New York, March 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns attacks and threats against several journalists covering the aftermath of the March 22 military coup in Mali that ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré.
"We are alarmed that journalists are facing intimidation and assault as they cover the aftermath of Mali's coup," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We call for an immediate end to aggression against journalists covering this important news story, and we will monitor the situation closely."
Soldiers loyal to junta leader Captain Amadou Haye Sanogo detained and handcuffed French journalist Omar Ouahmane, a reporter with France's state-owned radio broadcaster Radio France, on Wednesday night, according to a CPJ interview with the journalist and an Associated Press report. Sanogo is the head of the ruling junta in Mali and was responsible for the ouster of Touré. Local journalists said the soldiers stopped Ouahmane as he entered a hotel across the street from the junta-controlled national public broadcaster ORTM.
Ouahmane told CPJ that the soldiers became aggressive when they discovered he was a French journalist. Local journalists told CPJ that the junta have perceived the French media as biased in favor of Touré ever since the French government-funded international broadcaster Radio France Internationale aired an exclusive interview with the ousted president this past week.
"They threatened to kill me several times. They put their guns to my forehead and said they will blow my brains out." Ouahmane told CPJ. "I was forced to kneel and was handcuffed for about two hours with my wrists bleeding. They took my phone and recorder."
On Thursday evening, soldiers affiliated with Sanogo arrested five journalists in the outskirts of Bamako who were attempting to interview Touré. The journalists, who work for international media outlets but asked that their identities remain secret, were detained at a military base but released later that night, two of the journalists told CPJ.
Speaking with CPJ today, Alassane Souleymane, a media adviser for the junta, denied that any journalist had been assaulted, but acknowledged the detention of some journalists. "Security agents stopped some journalists on the road, and for their security they were escorted to some safe place and left to go. No journalist has been assaulted," he said.
Sanogo has been strongly criticized for the coup in which the lawful president of Mali was overthrown within a month of the April presidential elections. Mali has been one of the most stable and successful democracies in Africa, complete with free media. The last time CPJ documented an attack on the Malian media was 2007.