African journalists who criticise their respective governments’ policies and expose abuse of power by high-ranking military officers, and members of the political elite are usually branded as ‘criminals’, ‘rebels’ and ‘terrorists’.
That is the logic and the sad reality of the ‘dark continent’.
The latest incident in Mali, where Le Republicain editor Boukary Daou was charged on Monday with incitement to mutiny and publishing false information in connection with a story (sort of an open letter) that vehemently criticised former coup leader army Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, is a cause for concern.
Daou was arrested on 6 March 2013, and remains behind bars at the notorious Prison Civile de Bamako.
Last night the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly condemned the decision by a Malian judge to criminally prosecute the journalist.
CPJ Africa advocacy coordinator Mohamed Keita urged the public prosecutor to abandon charges that criminalise press freedom and freedom of expression in the country.
“Daou should be released pending trial,” Keita said in a statement.
Daou, who faces life in prison if convicted, will appear again in court on 16 April 2013.
Mali’s private media has since embarked on a nationwide news blackout to protest the unfair treatment meted to their colleague.
The blackout was lifted on Friday, but a media boycott of coverage of all government institutions remain in place, CPJ said.
Right now Captain Sanogo is the man Mali journalists would love to hate, as the man who led the 22 March 2012 coup d’etat that toppled former coup man Amadou Toumani Toure still pulls the strings on the country’s government and day-to-day affairs.
Sanogo coup d’etat has precipitated a big change in the impoverished West African nation and redesigned its political and military landscape.
President Dioncounda Traore, who is rumoured to fear Sanogo, has since elevated him to the rank of head of security forces and leader of army reforms with special powers and special packages.
This unlikely appointment made ‘at gunpoint’ seemed to have created divisions and unhappiness in the army, according to reports from the capital Bamako.