Mali: Judges Withdraw Defamation Case Against Journalist, Resort to Dialogue

A judges union in Mali has withdrawn a defamation case against Chahana Takiou, the Director of Publications of the 22 September bi-monthly newspaper.

The judges union, Syndicat Autonome de la Magistrature (SAM), was demanding CFA Francs 30 million (about US$51,000) in damages following a newspaper article by the 22 September newspaper.

The said newspaper article authored by Chahana Takiou which was published on March 14, 2016 and titled “Social Front: When magistrates plot the downfall of IBK”, said a recent salary demands by the judges union was a plot to destabilise Mali president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK).

The article described the judges as “spoilt children” whose entry level salary of CFAF 400,000 (about US$680) was “far higher than that of senior staff in other institutions.”

Following the publication, the judges union consequently filed defamation suit against Takiou and his newspaper.

With judgment due to be delivered on April 20, four of the country’s leading media organisations, Association des Editeurs de Presse Privée (ASEPP),  le Groupement patronal de la presse écrite (GROUPE) and MFWA’s national partner, la Maison de la Presse (MP) initiated a mediation process on April 8, April 2016. The judges union subsequently withdrew their suit and agreed to the mediation.

In a press statement issued on April 16, and signed by Dramane Aliou Koné, president of Maison de la Presse, the mediators said they were delighted to have successfully brokered an amicable settlement of the dispute.

The statement noted the newspaper had erred by labelling the judges as “conspirators” and apologised on behalf of the newspaper. The statement also thanked the judges for withdrawing the court action in the interest of democracy and peace adding that it is essential for the two groups to work together.

“The media and judges are essential elements of our democracy and cannot be rivals,” the statement said.

The MFWA also commends the judge union for resorting to dialogue in resolving the matter. We appeal to individuals to continue to resort to dialogue and dispute resolution mechanisms of media regulatory bodies and associations in seeking redress to media-related disputes.

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