Mali: Media Regulator suspends TV Channel for criticizing transitional government

The media regulatory authority in Mali, the High Authority for Communication (Haute Autorité de la communication, HAC) on November 3, 2022, suspended Joliba TV News channel and its Facebook page for two months.

This follows a publication of an editorial by the media house that criticised Mali’s transitional government. The media will only resume broadcasting in 2023.

Joliba has since notified its viewers about the suspension.

“This is to inform all our viewers and partners that Joliba TV News is suspended from operating and broadcasting under agreement No. 49/HAC-MALI of December 29, 2017, for a period of two months upon notice received on Thursday, November 3, 2022,” the channel stated in a publication on its Facebook page.

The management of Joliba TV News also indicated that it has appealed the decision.

The suspension brings into reality long-held fears by the media that a crackdown on press freedom was looming.

On October 12, 2022, the HAC put the television channel on notice following the broadcasting, on September 30, 2022, of an editorial that expressed worry about the looming danger to freedom of expression and the press in the country.

The HAC said Joliba TV’s “Editorial” programme contained “unfounded allegations and defamatory passages. It, therefore, violates the ethics and deontology of journalism.”

“The show often makes use of expressions with strong pejorative connotations when referring to the action of the Transitional authorities,” said the HAC.

The media regulator also summoned the presenter of the programme, Mohamed Halidou Taher, to respond to the accusations.

More specifically, the regulatory body accused the channel of making defamatory remarks and unfounded accusations against them (the HAC), against the state of freedom of expression in Mali, and against the transitional government. The regulator referenced Article 2 of the law on private audiovisual communication services (law n° 2012-019 of March 12, 2012) in its accusation.

The channel, in the said editorial, assessed that the tone and posture of Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga while giving a speech at the United Nations General Assembly were hostile and undiplomatic.

Joliba TV News also deplored what it described as a culture of “pensée unique” and urged the HAC to play “its role in confronting the many cases of abuse on social media,” adding that “there are times when silence means betrayal”.

The HAC’s decision to suspend the channel has sparked outrage among the overwhelming majority of media actors and human rights advocates in Mali.

In a statement issued on November 4, 2022, the Union des Journalistes de la Presse libre Africaine (UJPLA) denounced what it called a serious violation of freedom of expression. While calling for the lifting of the sanction and the immediate reopening of Joliba TV News, the UJPLA also called on the Malian authorities to respect the law on freedom of expression and press freedom.

The Union des Journalistes Reporters du Mali (UJRM) has also condemned the high-handed decision of the H.A.C. In a post on its Facebook page, UJRM invited the HAC to reconsider its decision and urged media practitioners to strictly respect the ethics and deontology of the profession.

Meanwhile, MFWA’s partner, Maison de la presse du Mali, has invited the HAC to consider the appeal lodged by Joliba TV news and urged it to lift the suspension to spare the channel, its workers, partners and viewers, the negative ramifications of the decision.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) joins the press and human rights activists in Mali to strongly condemn the suspension of the Bamako-based Malian news channel. Out of deep concern about the shrinking civic space in Mali, we urge the High Authority for Communication to reconsider its decision which is depriving thousands of citizens access to information.

While we call on journalists to exercise professionalism and caution, we call on the transitional government to uphold the right of all citizens to free expression.

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