The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the court in Mali's capital city of Bamako to immediately release from jail and drop charges against four editors, a journalist and a teacher for "offence against the head of state" after the publication of an article about a school assignment on a sex scandal involving a fictional president.
The journalist and the teacher have been detained since Thursday, 14 June 2007. The four editors were arrested on 20 June after they republished the article in question. According to sources, the editors are accused of "complicity of offence against the head of state."
The IFJ is backing the call by Mali's journalists that authorities immediately release journalist Seydina Oumar Diarra, editors Sambi Touré of Info-Matin, Ibrahima Fall of Le Républicain, Alexis Kalambry of Les Echos and Haméye Cissé of Le Scorpion and teacher Bassirou Kassim Minta and to withdraw all the charges against them on the grounds that neither the article nor even the teacher's assignment in any way offends the President of the Republic.
"We call on President Amadou Toumani Touré to ensure that the prosecutor throws out this case immediately. It sullies the image of Mali, which is seen in the region as a model democracy with respect for freedom of expression," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.
At a protest last week, Ibrahim Famakan Coulibaly, president of both the Malian Journalists' Association and the West African Journalists' Association was beaten by security forces and wounded in the legs. Security forces also fired tear gas at the protesting journalists, who demonstrated in front of the office of the Justice Minister for the release of their colleagues.
Diarra, a journalist with the private daily newspaper Info-Matin, and Minta, a literature teacher at a private high school of Bamako, were imprisoned after Diarra published an article in the June 1 edition of Info-Matin criticizing Minta for assigning students to write an essay about an unnamed president who is involved in a sex scandal.
"These charges are baseless and appear to be an attempt to intimidate newspapers who do not support the ruling party," Baglo said. "The government cannot jail journalists and editors simply because it does not agree with them or doesn't like their articles."
The four editors, the journalist and the teacher are due to appear on 26 June in criminal court in Bamako.
In solidarity with their colleagues, other newspapers promised to publish the articles. Since the editors' arrests, the article appeared in the 21 June edition of La Nouvelle République.
Published courtesy of IFJ