- Four Malian publishers have been troubled over the publication of a secondary school essay assignment given to a group of high students. The students were asked to write about a fictional president who refuses to recognise his child mistress, which according to Malian authorities, is tantamount to insulting the Head of State.
Malian police arrested and detained the publishers of Scorpion, Info Matin, Echos and the RA@publicain – Hameye Cise, Sambi Toure, Alexis Kalambry and Birama Fall, respectively. After being interrogated by the State Prosecutor, the men were taken to Bamako Central Prison for complicity in offending the Malian President.
The police had earlier arrested and detained a journalist of the privately-owned daily Info Matin, Seydina Oumar Diarra and Bassirou Kassim Minta, a literature teacher in Bamako Secondary School.
The four publishers printed the said article as a sign of solidarity with their colleague. It was also published to defend the freedom of expression in a country whose government has over the years gained respected for being tolerant to dissenting voices.
Officials of the West African Editors’ Forum (WAEF) have expressed great concern over the new pattern of “worrying deterioration of press freedom and expression in a country seen as a bright example in West Africa and beyond.
Describing the acts as “incompatible with democratic and republican values”, the WAEF called for the immediate and unconditional release of the arrested persons whose only crime is to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
“These rights are guaranteed by the constitution of Mali and numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the WAEF President, Souleymane Diallo, said.
He said as a signatory to Article 19 of the UN Charter, the Malian government must not persecute its citizens for merely expressing their right to freedom and expression.
“WAEF reaffirms its solidarity with the editors, the journalists and the professional media organisations in the region,” Mr Diallo, also the General Manager of Guinea’s La Lance/Lynx, said, adding that WAEF will remain firm in supporting the media in the struggle for press freedom and expression in the region.
“We are therefore launching an appeal to all those committed to freedom of expression to join us to confront what seems to be an effort to muzzle the free and independent press in Mali.”
The regional editors group has asked its colleagues in Africa, particularly those of the African Editors’ Forum to join them in expressing disapproval over the illegal arrest and detention to the Malian authorities.
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