Malian journalist faces death threats over critical publication about Wagner Group

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the death threats and attempts to intimidate journalist Malick Konaté. We call on the Malian authorities to guarantee the journalist’s safety.

This call has become necessary in view of the barrage of threats, insults, intimidation and online harassment to which the journalist has been subjected over an alleged “unpatriotic” publication. The threats came after Konaté worked with the French television channel BFM TV to produce an investigative story about the presence of the Russian private military company Wagner in Mali. The story was aired on October 31, 2022.

The Collective for the Defence of the Military (Collectif pour la défense des militaires, CDM), a group that supports the transitional authorities and Malian Armed Forces (Forces Armées Maliennes, FAMa), has called on the authorities in Mali to open an investigation against Malick Konaté, the director of the online news channel Horon TV and a reporter for some foreign media.

In a statement posted on Facebook on November 3, 2022, the CDM accused Konaté of having actively and negatively participated in the publication of a defamatory investigation against the “FAMa and the Authorities of the Pan-African Transition of Mali”. The group went on to describe the journalist as “a so-called Malian in the payroll of France, of colonial imperialism and of international terrorism sponsored by France.”

The statement has since been followed by threats against Konaté from anonymous people on social networks by messaging and direct calls. Some of the abusers called the journalist a “traitor”, a “prey to be slaughtered” and “Mali’s number one enemy.” Given the intensity of the hostility, Konaté decided to take refuge.

“It’s really hard, it’s very painful to be called a traitor and an enemy of my nation. The threats continue. I prefer to stay away for the moment to avoid people taking advantage of the situation to attack me,” he told the MFWA in a telephone chat.

Konaté explained that he is being attacked because he recorded video footage for the report. The journalist said the people filmed had given their consent and knew what the report was about and that nothing was manipulated.

On November 23, 2022, Mali’s Judicial Investigation Brigade (BIJ), issued a summon for the journalist to appear and respond to charges of “high treason” against him. However, as he was out of the country, he was unable to honour the invitation.

Several press unions have expressed their support for Malick Konaté and condemned the threats against him. In a statement on its Facebook page, La Maison de la Presse du Mali, MFWA’s partner in Mali, condemned the threats and verbal attacks against the journalist.

“Every individual has the right to be presumed innocent. The Press House deplores the calls for physical harm and the crude insults he has been subjected to,” the Union added.

The MFWA is deeply concerned about the death threats against Malick Konaté and the continued shrinking of the press freedom environment in Mali. We strongly urge the government of Mali to guarantee press freedom and freedom of expression generally in the country while discouraging any actions that may cause harm to critical and dissenting voices.

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