The night of Wednesday March 16 to Thursday March 17 marked a particular turning point in the strong tensions which have been opposing Paris and Bamako for some time now. The junta at the head of Mali has decided to suspend the broadcasting of French media from the France Médias Monde group, France 24 and Radio France International (RFI).
This is undoubtedly the political event of the month of March in Africa. Indeed, on March 17, the continent woke up with this statement from the junta which ensures the political transition in Mali. In this press release, the provisional government announces the process of suspending the broadcasting of French media giants France 24 and RFI, which have been established across the continent for decades now.
The Malian junta accuses the media of spreading false news aimed at discrediting the Malian army in the eyes of Malians and the rest of the world. Indeed, RFI and France 24 have spread information that the Malian army is committing abuses against the population. Allegations strongly refuted by the junta in these terms: “the Malian government categorically rejects these false allegations against the valiant Fama” (Malian Armed Forces) and “undertakes a procedure […] to suspend the broadcasting of RFI until further notice [ …] and France 24″. Press release signed by Abdoulaye Maïga, government spokesperson.
As the press release specifies, these French media are in the logic of the radio mille collines which participated in the outbreak of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. They are in a maneuver consisting in throwing opprobrium on the junta in Mali. After the latter expelled the French Barkhane force from Malian territory. These media would therefore be instruments used by the French government to feed Malian anti-junta sentiment.
As expected, France, through its President Emmanuel Macron, condemned this decision. During the press conference organized to present his campaign plan, the boss of the Elysee Palace described this suspension as “a sign of a race forward towards the worst”. Going in the same vein, he declared that he “condemns with the greatest firmness this decision which seems totally contrary to the values that the Malian people and Mali have carried since its independence”. The European Union also condemned this decision, as did the France Médias Monde group, owner of France 24 and RFI.
According to observers, these condemnations of Westerners are totally illogical. They denounce attacks on press freedom, yet these same Westerners have banned the broadcasting of Russian media Sputnik and RT in much of Europe since Russia invaded Ukraine. Does this mean that freedom of the press is not applicable to Russian media but only to French media?
Still, the transitional government remains firm on its decision. It even prohibited television and radio channels as well as Malian newspapers and information sites from publishing or rebroadcasting the programs and broadcasts of the France 24 and RFI media. For its part, the France Médias Monde group is looking for ways and means to ensure that its media continue to broadcast in Mali.