New York, March 18, 2022 — Malian authorities should reverse the suspension of French broadcasters Radio France Internationale (RFI) and France 24, and swiftly implement accreditation processes that ensure journalists are not barred from working in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On Wednesday, March 16, Mali’s Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization began a procedure to suspend the ability of RFI and France 24 to broadcast content in the country, according to a copy of the suspension order posted on the ministry’s Facebook page and reports by RFI and France 24. Both outlets are subsidiaries of the French government-owned France Médias Monde parent company, which stated it “deplored the decision,” according to those reports.
The suspension order cited the publication of “false allegations” of abuses by the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) made earlier this month by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Human Rights Watch, and RFI as the reason for the suspensions. The order said the suspensions were justified under Mali’s “laws and regulations” but did not specify which laws were violated and barred all local outlets from distributing content made by RFI and France 24.
“Authorities in Mali should halt their efforts to control journalism in the country and reverse the suspension of RFI and France 24, as well as the ban on all local media distributing those outlets’ content,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “These suspensions, which follow the suspension of the media accreditation processes earlier this year, paint a grim picture for press freedom in Mali.”
RFI and France 24 broadcasts have been shut off since 1 p.m. local time on March 17, according to a journalist with knowledge of the situation who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Sambi Touré, the director of the Malian government’s information center, acknowledged CPJ’s requests for comment sent via messaging app, but did not directly answer the questions sent to him about the suspensions. CPJ also called Harouna Mamadou Toureh, Mali’s minister of communication, digital economy, and administration modernization. One of the calls sounded like it connected, but no audible words could be heard, and other calls and questions sent via messaging app and text message went unanswered.
In February, Malian authorities suspended the accreditation processes for journalists and expelled Jeune Afrique reporter Benjamin Roger, a French national, hours after he arrived in the county saying he did not have the required accreditation, as CPJ documented at the time. Accredited journalists already inside Mali could continue working, Harbert Traoré, a technical adviser for the Ministry of Communication, told CPJ at the time.
Since that time, certain journalists’ accreditations have expired and there is currently no avenue to be reaccredited, a journalist with knowledge of the situation told CPJ. In response to CPJ’s request for an update on accreditation processes in Mali, Traoré told CPJ via messaging app that the Ministry of Communication did not make these decisions without elaborating further.
In a video published on March 14, Olivier Dubois, a journalist kidnapped in Mali, said he was abducted by jihadists in April 2021 and thanked his family for messages he heard over the radio, which RFI has been broadcasting. CPJ called for his immediate release.