Dakar, November 2, 2023 — Malian authorities must drop all legal proceedings against journalist Abdoul Niang and allow him to report the news freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday.
On October 19, police in Bamako, Mali’s capital, summoned Niang, director of the privately-owned Malian radio station Émergence FM and an online columnist, to a police station and arrested him, the journalist and his lawyer, Ladji Traoré, told CPJ. The same day a prosecutor with the cybercrime unit at a local court charged Niang with making false statements likely to disturb public order under the country’s press law, a charge punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine up to 150,000 West African francs (US$240). The prosecutor ordered his detention at Bamako’s central prison, where he was held until October 31, according to Niang, his lawyer, and news reports. His trial is scheduled for November 16.
“Malian authorities must drop all charges against journalist Abdoul Niang and ensure that he can freely comment on political and judicial news,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Malian journalists should not have to fear arrest for discussing basic information of public interest and authorities should reform the country’s legislation to ensure journalists cannot be arrested or jailed for their work.”
Niang’s charges relate to comments he made in an October 18 interview on a local outlet’s Facebook page regarding the dismissal of a separate defamation case against him. Youssouf Daba Diawara, the coordinator of the Coordination of Movements and Sympathizers of Mahmoud Dicko, an activist group affiliated with a local imam, had tried to sue the journalist for his reporting on the group’s alleged links with the Coordination of the Azawad Movements, a rebel alliance that the government of Mali has accused of terrorist activity. Niang had discussed the alleged links on a video broadcast on Niang Media, one of two Facebook pages he runs. On October 10, a local prosecutor dismissed the defamation complaint, but charged him nine days later after he spoke about the dismissal in an interview.
Reached by CPJ, Amadou Coulibaly, prosecutor with the cybercrime unit of Bamako, declined to comment on Niang’s case, citing a duty of confidentiality because the legal proceedings are ongoing.
Editor’s note: The quote was updated to correct a typo.