Malian journalist Yeri Bocoum was last seen by his family on June 8, 2024, outside his home in Kati. (Photo: Adama Sacko)

Malian journalist Yeri Bocoum missing after covering banned protest

Dakar, June 27, 2024 — Malian authorities should urgently investigate the disappearance of journalist Yeri Bocoum and account for his whereabouts, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Bocoum, director of the Facebook news page YBC-Communication, was last seen by his family outside his home in Kati, a district in the western region of Koulikoro, on the afternoon of June 8, according to a statement by his outlet and a person familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns. That person, who has spoken to the journalist’s family, told CPJ that Bocoum’s disappearance had been reported to the local police and gendarmerie, and the family has not received any updates as of June 27.

The day before Bocoum disappeared, he covered a banned demonstration by the opposition political group “Synergie pour le Mali” in Bamako, the capital. That evening, the journalist posted on the outlet’s Facebook page that “malicious individuals” riding two motorcycles had tried to “intercept” him while he was going home.

“The disappearance of Malian journalist Yéri Bocoum is alarming, raises serious concerns for his well-being, and sends a chilling message to the Malian media community,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Muthoki Mumo, in Nairobi. “It is imperative that Malian authorities do everything necessary to find Bocoum, ensure that he returns home unharmed, and is able to safely resume his work.”

Regional authorities banned the June 7 demonstration, citing an earlier April 10 directive by Mali’s transitional government, which took power following a 2021 military coup. The directive outlawed all political party activity after several opposition parties called for presidential elections.

On April 11, the country’s media regulator High Authority for Communication (HAC) ordered journalists to stop covering political activities.

HAC President Gaoussou Coulibaly told CPJ in April 2024 that the HAC would investigate violations of the directive and that those found in contravention would face sanctions, including the closure of their media outlets. Coulibaly told CPJ in June that Bocoum’s work did not fall within HAC’s remit as he was not affiliated with a media outlet approved by the regulator.

In a June 13 report, the French public broadcaster Radio France Internationale cited a “Malian security source” and said Bocoum was being held by Malian state security services, which operate under the direct authority of the President. CPJ could not independently verify the RFI report.

CPJ’s calls and messages to Baba Cissé, head of the Malian presidency’s communications unit, and the national gendarmerie’s publicly listed number were unanswered. CPJ’s call to the publicly listed number for the Malian national police was answered by a person who declined to give his name but said to ask the family to contact the Kati police station to find out the status of the investigation.