Malian Authorities must release journalist arrested over comments – MFWA

The columnist and radio host, Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, popularly known as “Ras Bath”, is due to appear before the High Court of Bamako on June 13, 2023. The journalist, who was arrested on March 13, 2023, is accused of “criminal simulation and disturbing public order”.

Bath was picked up at his house by security agents and subjected to intense interrogation. He was subsequently taken to the High Court of Bamako which placed him under a detention order. The arrest and detention of the journalist are allegedly linked to comments he made at a national conference of the Patriotic Alliance for Solidarity Mali-Convergence of Patriotic Forces (ASMA-CFP), the political party of Mali’s late former prime minister, Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga who died in detention in 2022.

The journalist, who is also the spokesperson for the Collectif pour la défense de la République (Collective for the Defence of the Republic, CDR), a political pressure group, alleged that the ex-Prime Minister Maiga did not simply die in detention, but was left to die.

Meanwhile, the Director of Publication of the newspaper Le Démocrate and member of the CDR, Aliou Touré, disappeared on April 6, 2023 only to be released four days later by state security agents who had “kidnapped” him. Toure had taken over the current affairs show, Les Grands Dossiers, which Ras Bath was hosting on Renouveau FM.  The CDR claims Toure was arrested after a conference the group held to denounce the detention of Ras Bath.

It is not clear why journalist Aliou Touré was arrested. He told the MFWA that he prefers not to comment on the circumstances of his disappearance fearing for his safety.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the arrest and continued detention of Ras Bath and urges the Malian authorities to drop charges against the journalist and exhibit more tolerance for dissenting opinions. While we welcome the release of Aliou Touré, we also demand the release of Ras Bath.

The state of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Mali is one of the most alarming in West Africa. The country is plagued by terrorist attacks. Critical journalists and communicators, are often caught between the hammer of the authorities and the anvil of the terrorists.

The unstable political climate is constraining several journalists and critical voices to self-censor. On November 3, 2022, the Haute Autorité de la communication (HAC), the media regulatory authority, suspended Joliba TV News and its Facebook page for two months. The HAC’s decision followed an editorial by the media outlet that criticized Mali’s transitional government.

The authorities have also suspended French media organizations and expelled correspondents of some foreign media.

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