Mali’s junta bans media from reporting on political activities

A notice said the ban applied to all forms of media including television, radio and newspapers.

Mali Prime Minister Abdoulaye Maiga at the COP28 Climate Summit in 2023 (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Mali Prime Minister Abdoulaye Maiga at the COP28 Climate Summit in 2023 (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Mali’s ruling junta has banned the media from reporting on activities of political parties and associations, a day after suspending all political activities in the country until further notice.

Thursday’s order, issued by Mali’s high authority for communication, was distributed on social media. The notice said it applied to all forms of the media, including television, radio, online and print newspapers.

Mali has experienced two coups since 2020, leading a wave of political instability that has swept across West and Central Africa in recent years.

Along with its political troubles, the country is also in the grip of a worsening insurgency by militants linked to al Qaida and the so-called Islamic State.

The scope of the ban — or how it would be applied in practise — was not immediately clear. It was also not known if journalists would still be allowed to report on issues such as the economy, which are closely tied to politics and who would monitor their work.

The umbrella organisation that represents journalists in Mali responded with an unusually stern rebuttal.

The group, known as Maison de le Press, said it rejects the order and called on journalists to continue to report on politics in Mali.

It also urged them to “stand tall, remain unified and to mobilise to defend the right of citizens to have access to information”.

Mali’s national commission for human rights also expressed regret and profound concern over the decision in a statement published late on Thursday. It warned the junta the decision could prove harmful.

“Instead of calming the social climate, these restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms could potentially stir up trouble and tension, which the country does not need,” it said.

The clampdown on the media followed a similar action on Wednesday, when the junta ordered the suspension of all activities by political parties until further notice, citing a a need to preserve public order.

The news was broadcast on state television as the population was celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Analysts said the move was likely a backlash against political figures, civil society and students who have expressed frustration with the junta’s failure to return the country to democratic rule as promised.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the ban on political activities.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of association are critical to an open society,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington.