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Military zones in Mali 'off-limits' for journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls on the Malian and French authorities to allow journalists to freely cover the military operations under way in Mali since 11 January. Both foreign and local journalists have been kept more than 100 km from the fighting ever since the start of the military intervention.

“In war time, it is up to journalists and their news organizations, not the military, to determine the risk they are prepared to take in order to gather information,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“It is imperative that journalists should be free to verify the situation on the ground for themselves without having to make do with the information provided by the authorities of the countries involved in the conflict, especially when the first claims of war crimes by soldiers are being made. The current situation constitutes a grave obstruction to the ability of journalists to do their job.”

“Some journalists have managed to be 'embedded' with troops. This is a way of covering the fighting but it should not be the only way of reporting on the events surrounding the military intervention. The public should not have to settle for information and video footage acquired under military control or directly provided by the military.”

Forced to comply with military directives that are keeping them far from the areas of operation by preventing them from going beyond the city of Ségou, the international and local media have been calling it a “war behind
closed doors.”

The French and Malian authorities are preventing journalists from getting within 100 km of the areas where fighting is taking place. It is particularly difficult to find out what is happening in the embattled city of Gao, where phone networks have been down since the start of the week, preventing any contact with local residents, journalists or anyone else.

Several journalists who had been given permission to travel with French armoured vehicles as far as Sévaré were obliged to leave the convoy in Ségou, some distance short of their destination, yesterday morning.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that a France 24 TV crew was stopped by the Malian authorities in Sévaré and was told they could go no further. Sévaré is on the edge of the war zone, which the French journalists had been trying to enter on their own.
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