French journalist Olivier Dubois released after nearly 2 years of captivity in Mali
Olivier Dubois, a French freelancer, went missing on April 8, 2021, in the Malian region of Gao while seeking an interview with the local leader of the Al-Qaeda affiliated group Jamaa Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin. His abduction was made public in a video posted online that May.
On Monday, March 20, 2023, Dubois was released and arrived at an airport in Niamey, in the neighboring country of Niger. “It’s amazing for me to be here, to be free,” Dubois said while thanking Nigerien authorities for their role in his release.
CPJ had covered the case since Dubois went missing in 2021 and advocated for his release. In a powerful Q&A, Dubois’ partner, Deborah Al Hawi Al Marsi, told CPJ in October 2021, “The trials of life are very hard, but our family is strong and the love that Olivier always gave us is still in our hearts. His love makes us still stand. I try to be very humble about my pain, because I am confident that I will see him back home.”
“We are elated that journalist Olivier Dubois is finally free and able to return home to his family and his colleagues,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal, in New York. “Mali’s conflict and constitutional crisis have acutely increased risks for journalists. While Dubois’ release is a relief, journalist safety continues to be concerning. We urge all parties, including jihadists, to refrain from criminal actions to silence the press.” For more on the release and the situation in Mali and the surrounding region, Quintal spoke to France 24, which can be watched here:
CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg attended SXSW in Austin, Texas, in early March to participate in a panel discussion on “The State of Journalism: Funding, Safety, and Trust.” Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant moderated the discussion with Axios Media Reporter Sara Fischer, CEO & Co-Founder at The National Trust for Local News, Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, and Ginsberg.
CPJ hosts OSCE side event on Kyrgyzstan with American Bar Association and OSF
Kyrgyzstan was once known as an “island of democracy” surrounded by countries with strong authoritarian governments in Central Asia, but in recent years, the human rights and press freedom situation has deteriorated. Journalists were attacked, put on trial, and harassed. Authorities blocked the website and froze bank accounts of Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz-language Service of RFE/RL, the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster, and adopted new laws restricting press freedom.
To draw the international community’s attention to Kyrgyzstan’s dire media environment, on March 13, 2023, CPJ co-organized a side event during OSCE’s Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Media Freedom as a Central Pillar of Comprehensive Security held in Vienna, Austria.
CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program partnered with the American Bar Association and the Open Society Foundation’s office in Bishkek, known locally as Soros-Kyrgyzstan, to organize a side event, “Kyrgyzstan: Increased Suppression of Independent Media and Civil Society.”
CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, who spoke at the event, shared CPJ’s concerns about the country’s press freedom record, highlighted recent cases of harassment of journalists, and called for repealing the recently adopted and proposed bills that restrict press freedom. She also spoke about Azimjon Askarov, a prominent journalist and human rights defender, who died in a Kyrgyz prison in 2020 after spending 10 years of his life sentence behind bars. CPJ continues its advocacy efforts to clear the name of Askarov, a recipient of CPJ’s 2012 International Press Freedom Award, and hold to account those responsible for his imprisonment and death.
The speakers included two prominent investigative journalists–Bektour Iskender, co-founder of investigative reporting project Kloop, and Bolot Temirov, founder and chief editor of the YouTube channel Temirov Live–who spoke about their experience facing repression.
Kyrgyzstan authorities put Temirov on trial on fabricated charges and deported him to Russia in retaliation for his investigative reporting on high-level government corruption.
CPJ spoke with Li Zehua, an independent YouTube journalist who goes by the name Kcriss Li, about his early coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China, particularly at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Li told CPJ he was taken by authorities, questioned, and forcibly quarantined. When asked about his detainment, Li responded, “Even though I had courage, and as brave as I am, I still trembled. In that fear, there was total disappointment with the [Chinese] state. I thought the first half of my life had been terminated.”
CPJ is demanding authorities in Ecuador investigate bombs sent by mail to at least five journalists, including TV and radio reporters and a news commentator. The bombs were sent in manila envelopes containing USB drives and threatening messages. One journalist was injured after the USB drive exploded once plugged into his computer. “This is an absolutely clear effort to muzzle journalists who have been aggressive in their coverage or to muzzle the media,” Interior Minister Juan Zapata told reporters.
CPJ is calling on local authorities to swiftly and thoroughly investigate attacks on journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina covering a gathering of LGBTQ activists. Four journalists were treated for minor injuries at an emergency room after attackers threw bottles and beat them with sticks as they left the gathering. “Authorities must do their utmost to ensure that reporters can cover events of public interest safely, and without fear that they will be harassed and attacked,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative.
CPJ in the news
“A Russian editor evades Putin’s censorship,” The New York Times
“The life and death of a Ukrainian photographer,” The New Yorker