23 July 2012

Campaigns and Advocacy

Government urged to guarantee safety of journalists in wake of post-coup violence

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UPDATE: Crackdown on people linked to counter-coup, journalists (Human Rights Watch, 25 July 2012)

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 23 July 2012 - In a letter addressed to the Malian authorities, ARTICLE 19 has expressed its deep concerns over the security of journalists in Mali.

Since the overthrow of constitutional order that took place on 22 March 2012 following a mutiny in the military camp of Kati under the command of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, arrests and attacks against journalists have continued to increase. These acts violate freedom of expression and access to information, and have spread fear and insecurity among journalists and human rights defenders in Mali.

The violations range from physical assaults, confiscation of equipment, to taking over media outlets and arrests. As a result, journalists are suffering from the conflict situation in Mali.

Since their coming to power, the military have targeted foreign and national journalists who are trying to cover the crisis. Severe cases of violence have been reported from March to July 2012.

Instances of violence have included the following:
According to several sources, the arrest of journalists revealed the existence of telephone tapping, which is a serious violation of journalists' rights. This technique associated with illegal interrogation endangers journalists and their sources.

This unacceptable practice is not only used by the government but also by rebels from the MLNA and other groups fighting in the Nord. A journalist who had broadcasted about the situation in the North of Mali has been questioned by the rebels and subsequently beaten.

In northern Mali, little information comes out of the areas controlled by Islamist groups. Indeed, sources have revealed atrocities committed against the local population, whose freedoms of association, expression and protest have been severely repressed. In those zones, reports suggest that women are forced to wear the veil against their will.

On 26 June, a march against armed groups that occupy the city, following the assassination of an elected local leader, was repressed with a dozen people injured by bullets, two of them seriously in the head.

From 30 June, the rebel of Ansar Eddin stormed the mausoleums of Timbuktu, a World Heritage site and current symbol of Sufism, a branch of Islam largely practiced in West Africa. The destruction of religious sites violates international humanitarian law and denies the religious expression of many of the populations of northern Mali.

ARTICLE 19 condemns these abuses against journalists, which attempt to gag freedom of expression and the right of access to information. ARTICLE 19 calls for the immediate end of these acts of violence and intimidation against media professionals. The transitional government in Mali must take urgent measures to bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice and to ensure that independent and impartial investigations are carried out.

ARTICLE 19 reiterates the recent Joint Declaration of 25 June 2012 on Crimes Against Freedom of Expression of the four international experts on freedom of expression which outlines states' obligations to fight impunity for attacks against freedom of expression and identifies steps that the states must adopt in order to prevent these crimes, protect the victims and investigate the crimes effectively when the violations occur. The declaration of June 2012 calls on all governments to create a new category of “crime against free expression”.

ARTICLE 19 calls for the respect of the Bamako Declaration on impunity, justice and human rights adopted in Mali on December 2011 and the Declaration of Principles on freedom of Expression in Africa and subsequent resolutions which prohibit violence against journalists.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Malian authorities to take urgent and concrete measures to ensure the safety of journalists so they can do their job impartially.

ARTICLE 19 calls on ECOWAS and the African Union to explicitly request increased protection of journalists and human rights activists from all parties to the conflict, including in the north.


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