Mali’s ruling military junta has ordered the suspension of FRANCE 24 Television and RFI radio in the country.
The decision by the junta came after it accused the French public news agencies of reporting “false allegations” of abuse by the Malian army.
A statement signed by the government spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, noted that the Malian government “categorically rejects these false allegations against valiant FAMa [Malian Armed Forces] and has launched a procedure… to suspend the broadcasting of RFI… and FRANCE 24 until further notice”.
The Malian junta staged two coups in 2020 and 2021. As a result, it has faced accusations of violations by several human rights groups, including a March 15, 2022, report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which accused Malian soldiers of being responsible for the death of at least, 17 civilians since early December last year (2021).
Earlier this year (2022), France announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta. French troops were in Mali on a military mission, fighting against Al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) group-linked Jihadist group in the Sahel area.
The statement by the Malian junta also accused the two news agencies of having “a premediated strategy aimed at destabilising the political transition, demoralizing the Malian people and discrediting the Malian army”.
The allegations of abuse by the Malian junta were made by UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and subsequently reported by RFI and FRANCE 24 this week.
Responding to the junta’s order, France Medias Monde (FMM) said it “deplored” the decision and “strongly protested against the unfounded accusations that seriously undermine professionalism of its broadcasters.”
In a statement released on Thursday, March 17, 2022, FMM noted that it would “study all avenues of appeal to ensure that such a decision is not implemented”. The group also reiterated its “unwavering commitment to freedom of information and the professionalism of its journalists”.
France, EU condemn attack on press freedom
The French Foreign Ministry on Thursday, March 17, 2022, condemned the junta’s decision, referring to it as a “grave attack on the freedom of the press”. The European Union (EU) also called the order “unacceptable” and the attack on media freedom.
A Foreign Policy Spokeswoman for the EU, Nabila Massrali, said “We consider this to be unacceptable. We deplore this decision and the unfounded accusations”
“By attacking the freedom of the press, the freedom to inform and to be informed, the junta is continuing and confirming that it is pushing ahead regardless.”Foreign Policy Spokeswoman for the EU, Nabila Massrali