The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) calls on the Malian authorities to drop charges against journalist Abdoul Niang, and allow him to report the news freely.
On October 19, 2023 the police in Bamako summoned Niang, director of the privately-owned Malian radio station Émergence FM, to a police station and detained him. On 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. The maximum penalty for this offense is CFA 150,000 (US$240) in fines and six months in prison. He was detained at the central prison in Bamako (MCA) until October 31, 2023. His trial is scheduled for November 16, 2023.
The charges against Niang stem from comments he made following the dismissal of a previous defamation case against him. The abortive defamation action was in regard to allegations by the journalist linking the movement led by Mahmoud Dicko, an influential and politically active local imam, to the terrorist group , the Coordination of the Aza wad Movements.
In an interview on October 18, 2023 on the Facebook page of a local media outlet, the journalist touted his vindication following a local prosecutor’s dismissal of the defamation complaint against him on October 10.
Abdoul Niang’s detention adds to a growing list of critical voices incarcerated at the Bamako Central Arrest House (MCA). Several activists and journalists were arrested earlier this year, including Ras Bath, Adama Diarra,also known as “Ben Le Cerveau”, Sidiki Kouyaté, Tahirou Bah and Ms. Rokiatou Doumbia.
On September 8, 2023, Sidiki Kouyaté, also known as “Sèkè Agelement”, a radio host, and writer-activist Tahirou Bah were detained and remanded in custody on the orders of Dr. Adama Coulibaly, prosecutor for the cybercrime unit. Sidiki Kouyaté was accused of making comments likely to disturb public order on social media. The incident occurred at the end of the trial which led to his partner, “Ben le cerveau,” being sent to the MCA. Tahirou Bah was detained for disruption of public order and public insults on social networks. Their trial is scheduled for November 30, 2023.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the arrests and trial of Abdoul Niang, Sidiki Kouyaté and Tahirou Bah. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the three and call on the Malian authorities to uphold fundamental freedoms. This repression could have a dissuasive effect on free expression and opinion in Mali which has an obligation to uphold these rights under various international treaties to which it is signatory.