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Mali

Journalists detained, coup leader backpedals in Mali

Soldiers loyal to coup leader Captain Amadou Haye Sanogo detained six foreign journalists in Mali, according to the CPJ.

Omar Ouahmane, a reporter for Radio France, was handcuffed and detained March 28, 2012 as he was entering a hotel across the street from Office for Radio and Television Broadcasting in Mali (ORTM), a state-run media organization taken over by Sanogo’s junta soldiers during the coup, according to the CPJ report.

Junta soldiers took Ouahmane’s phone and recorder. “They threatened to kill me several times,” Ouahmane recounted to CPJ. “They put their guns to my forehead and said they will blow my brains out.”

Radio France International had published an interview with the ousted Touré earlier that day. In the interview, Touré said that he was safe in Mali and called for democracy to be reestablished in the country.

Several thousand demonstrators gathered in Bamako on the same day to show support for Sanogo and carried signs bearing messages such as “Down with France” and “Down with the international community,” according to a Radio France report.

Days later on March 30, five other international journalists attempting to interview the ousted leader Touré were detained outside the capital Bamako. The journalists asked to remain nameless but told CPJ they had been detained for a few hours.

CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita called for an “immediate end to aggression against journalists” who are covering the aftermath of Mali’s coup.

The CPJ is not the worst of Sanogo’s worries. On April 1, 2012, Sanogo addressed the media in a press conference announcing that the 1992 constitution had been “reinstated” and that the junta would work with the forces active in the country “to organize free, open and democratic elections in which we will not participate.”

The announcement came after international condemnation of the coup and an ultimatum by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, that the constitution be upheld.

The March 22 coup took place five weeks before the scheduled April 29 elections. Toure was not slated to run for another term, as he had fulfilled his two-term limit.

The coup was prompted by the junta’s perceived mismanagement of the Tuaregs rebel insurgency that erupted in mid-January in northern Mali. On April 1, AlJazeera reported that the rebels, fighting as National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), had taken over the city of Timbuktu giving them control over a third of Mali.

Mali ranked No. 25 in the world in Reporters Without Borders 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index, released before the coup. The country ranks the highest of any African nation. The Reporters Without Borders report called Mali and Ghana “Africa’s traditional leaders in respect for journalists.”

Other updates from Mali

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