Mali orders French TV company RFI, France 24 off

Mali’s military government has ordered the French broadcasters RFI and France 24 to broadcast, and complains that they have wrongly accused the army of abusing it, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The Bamako government “categorically rejects these false accusations against the brave FAMA (Malian Armed Forces),” said spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga.

The military “is initiating proceedings … to suspend broadcasts from RFI and France 24 … until further notice,” he said in a statement dated Wednesday.

The European Union opposed the ban, calling it “unacceptable” and saying the allegations on which it was based were “unfounded”.

“By attacking the freedom of the press, the freedom to inform and to be informed, the junta continues and confirms that it is moving forward regardless,” said foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali in Brussels.

RFI and France 24 were still broadcasting on Thursday morning in the conflict-ridden Sahel nation.

There is no recent precedent in Mali for major foreign news media to be taken off the air.

RFI (Radio France Internationale) and France 24 cover African news extensively and have a strong following in the former French colony.

France Media’s Monde, the parent company of RFI and France 24, said on Thursday that they “regret” the decision to take their broadcasts off the air.

“False accusations”

The military, which took power in August 2020, said there had been “false accusations” in a report earlier this week in which RFI sent comments from alleged victims of abuse by the army and the shady Russian private security group Wagner.

Maiga said that Malian news websites, newspapers and its national radio and television stations were all “prohibited from broadcasting and / or publishing programs and news articles by RFI and France 24.”

He compared the French TV companies to Rwanda’s Radio Mille Collines – an infamous outlet that incited listeners to exterminate minority Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

“Some allegations, especially those made by the RFI, have no purpose other than to sow hatred,” he said, adding that this showed “criminal intent” on the part of some journalists.

Mali’s military also accused Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s human rights chief, of making false accusations against the government.

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