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Society | Media

Mali journalists protest attack on colleague

afrol News, 8 July - Malian journalists this weeks have staged a sit-in outside the Bamako headquarters of the Ministry of Communication to protest the brutal attack on colleague Hamidou Diarra. Mr Diarra on Tuesday had been kidnapped by unidentified assailants, beaten and left for dead outside Bamako, the capital of Mali.

The Malian journalist association this week was shocked by the brutal attack on Mr Diarra of 'Radio Kélédou', a journalist renown for his radio programmes criticising a number of Malian politicians. Press freedom generally is respected in Mali and no grave attacks on journalists have been noted for over a decade.

Ibrahima Famakan Coulibaly, the President of the Union of Western African Journalists (UJAO), said Malian journalists therefore had organised a sit-in outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Communication and new information technology to press Bamako authorities "to carry out a proper investigation into the attack on Diarra."

Malian police are already investigating the attack and have not publicly specified the motive. Local journalists however believe that the assault on Mr Diarra was linked to his work at the radio station. Mr Diarra, known on-air as "Dragon", presents a popular programme in the local language Bambara in which he often criticises alleged abuses of power by local politicians and others.

On Tuesday, unidentified assailants had kidnapped, brutally beaten the journalist and breaking a beer bottle on his head. The kidnappers allegedly had believed Mr Diarra had died of the injuries when leaving him. He however was found alive several hours later about 15 kilometres outside of Bamako, according to 'Radio Kélédou' director Abel Koné.

Mr Diarra told co-workers and other journalists that he was kidnapped by men driving a sports utility vehicle after finishing his programme at the radio station. They blindfolded him and beat him all over his body, including his head, hands, and feet, before leaving him for dead at roadside in Kati, outside Bamako. Mr Diarra was treated at a local hospital and taken to a safe location, Mr Koné added.

The unprecedented attack on the prominent Malian journalist also has caused international protests this week. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday issued a strong protest. "We are deeply disturbed by this violent attack on a journalist," said Ann Cooper, CPJ's executive director. "We call on Malian authorities to ensure that the assault on Hamidou Diarra is thoroughly investigated and that all perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice," she added.

Also the Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontičres (RSF) "voiced horror" at the brutal attack, which was "aimed at intimidating" Malian journalists. RSF called on Bamako authorities "to take steps to ensure that this attack does not go unpunished and to protect journalists in Mali."

The West African Journalists Association (WAJA) already on Tuesday strongly condemned "this attack on press freedom, which was aimed at intimidating journalists and preventing them from working effectively." WAJA urged the Malian government to take the steps necessary to identify the authors of such attacks and to guarantee the safety of journalists and media organisations in the country.

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