The IPI global network condemns the killing of journalist Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla, and the abduction of two others, on November 7, by an insurgency group in northern Mali. Djibrilla was working for the local media outlet Naata de Labbezanga in Mali’s Kidal region, the epicenter of violence wrought by two main insurgency groups the Islamic State Sahel Province (EI-Sahel) and the jihadist alliance of the Group of Support for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
The kidnapped journalists are Saleck Ag Jiddou and Moustaph Kone, who work with Radio Coton d’Ansongo. According to reports, the EI-Sahel abductors are demanding six million CFA francs (about 10,000 euros) for their release.
A fourth journalist, Harouna Attino, who works with the radio station Alafia d’Asongo, was injured in the attack and is currently recovering. The journalists were reported to have been returning from a media training workshop when the assailants attacked their vehicle.
The killing of Djibrilla revived the memory of the murder of two French journalists, Claude Verlon and Ghislain Dupont, in the same region ten years ago. The perpetrators responsible for their murder are still to be apprehended.
Deteriorated press freedom context
The press situation in Mali has deteriorated over time amid violence by armed groups and worsened further following the August 2020 military takeover. Out of fear of reprisals from both the military-led regime and the armed insurgency groups, critical journalists and independent media have resorted to self-censorship
In October 2022, journalist Malick Konate was targeted with threats, insults, and intimidation both offline and online following the publication of an investigative piece about the presence of the Russian mercenary group Wagner in Mali. In April 2021, Olivier Dubois, a French national journalist was abducted by an armed group on April 8, 2021, in Gao, northern Mali, by the GSIM, and was freed on March 20, 2023, after nearly two years.
Suspension of critical media outlets
The authorities in Mali have also suspended two French channels over what they considered false allegations following the publication of reports on human rights abuses by the army.
On April 27, 2022, the state media regulatory body suspended Radio France International (RFI) and France 24. Similarly in May this year, the authorities warned a third French channel, TV5, over its critical analysis of human rights abuses based on a report published by the U.N. Human Rights Office.
On November 3, 2022, the media regulatory body suspended the privately owned media house Joliba TV News and blocked its Facebook page for two months following criticism of the military-led regime.
IPI call to action
“IPI deplores the killing of Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla as a horrendous act of violence against the press”, said Nompilo Simanje, IPI Africa Advocacy, and Partnership Lead. ’The deteriorating press freedom situation in Mali is deeply alarming and we call on the authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists and uphold media freedom, which remains critical even in times of insurgency. Authorities must work to ensure that the abducted journalists are returned safely and alive to their families while ensuring the suspected culprits of attacks on media and journalists are brought to justice’’.