Mali – The next elections at stake for Malian medias

Among the news about the war, Malian media try to tackle with other issues such as the next elections due in July 2013. Newspapers focuse on the abstention rate but also the division of the political landscape.

“How to improve the turnout?” The question asked by the Malia newspaper l’Essor shifts from the current news about war and the announcement of 63 Malian soldiers’ deaths. Why talking about elections when the war is not over yet? In a way, the newspaper tries to move forward and to analyze the next issues for the country. Expected in July, the idea of democratic elections is a first move toward hope and reconstruction. Based on a report published by the German Erbert Friedrich foundation about the low voting rate in Mali. According to experts Mohamed Traoré and Sékou Mamadou Chérif Diaby, the illiteracy rate and the lack of political culture are the main reasons for the abstention rate. But technical matters such as the inaccuracy of the electoral file, the roadmap and  the nature of the voting system present also an issue.

Twitter Screenshot

Twitter Screenshot

Confronted with a lot of political parties (at least 80), Malians will have to face a difficult choice in July. To make sure that most Malians do vote, a number of recommandations have been established. The newspaper Le Républicain sum them up : the creation of an administration which will be in charge of all the electoral structures. The establishement of a new biometric registration system, new electoral lists and a vast campaign of civic education and a formation to citizenship in order to push more people to vote.

From 1992 to 2007, the turnout to national elections has allways been very low. This is the problem, experts want to solve for the 2013 elections. Last year, before the military coup, a National and independent electoral commission called the CENI was created but there were many controversies during the electoral campaign. The electoral file was not so reliable and some opposition parties did not trust the commission.They even went to the Supreme Court because they did not agree on the interpretation of the electoral law.

According to Le Républicain, the reasons of the abstention rate in the past two decades can also come from political defiance and a deeper unease in the malian society. The security issue is also at stake for these elections, since the north is not completly freed of the conflicts between French troops and djihadists. French president François Hollande, in his speech on french TV channel France 2, yesterday, pointed out the necessity to have steady elections. These elections stand for a strong symbol. In front of the international community, they will show that Malians can overcome the next step after the war and start their reconstruction. François Hollande precised that France will not interfere with the choice of a new president for Malians. “The time when France chose African leaders is over “ Jeune Afrique reports.

François Hollande’s speech on France 2

Kassim Traore, a Malian reporter based in Bamako, reported on his Facebook status the decision of the comittee to support the electoral process’ s second reunion on Wednesday 27th.

Screenshot of Facebook profile

Screenshot of Facebook profile

Members discussed about the refugee vote’s issue and also the electoral budget. They agreed on a date, the 7 th of July for the first round and the 21th of July for the second one. But some political parties think that the country need more time to prepare its elections. In March, Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, the Minister in charge of the territorial administration announced that the elections were supposed to be held at the end of July.

His statement awoke the political class which is now fidgeting to prepare the electoral campaign. They will have to convince many disenchanting voters according to France 24 website.

Footage by France 24 about the disenchanting voters

Twitter screeshot

Twitter screeshot

Observers still watch the influence of Captain Sanogo which is very much present according to Gilles Yabi from the International Crisis Group. In February 2013, the American governments also announced that US will provide financial aid to the country only if democratic elections were held.

Since the establishement of a democratic regime in the 90’s, Mali has also adopted multipartism until reaching 120 political parties in 2009. For the Malian newspaper l’Indépendant, a lot of young Malians are currently gathering to apply for the elections. The polictical landscape is still divided but it is moving forward despite the war in the country.

Twitter screenshot

Twitter screenshot

Lilia Blaise

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Mali – Bad day for the press one year after coup

 

The press is still mobilized in Mali after the arrest of their colleague Boukary Daou for a publication on Le Républicain newspaper about the captain Sanogo. His imprisonment is considered as unfair by the profession who sees it as a way to muzzle the press. One year after the coup, freedom of the press is on the verge to collapse.

A Malian absurdity. This is how Malika Groga-Bada, a journalist at Jeune Afrique described the Boukary Dadou’s matter. The director of Le Républicain newspaper was arrested by agents on the 6th of March and held in jail. He was then transfered to a common police and had a first court audience. The judge decided to keep him in jail until his new trial on the 16th of April. The counts of indictment held against him are incitement to crime and propagation of false informations based on the articles 35 and 36 of the Malian Press code. For Malika Groga-Bada the whole issue is an absudity given the context.

Boukary Daou. (Photo Credit: Profile picture of the journalist on Facebook)

Boukary Daou. (Photo Credit: Profile picture of the journalist on Facebook)

«We could have hoped that in such conditions, State Security had other things to do (…)Instead, we are amazed that its priority is to hunt down journalists rather paying attention to the the fights between French troops and Jihadists.»
txi

For now, Boukary Daou is still in a difficult position. He risks three years of jail and a fine. He still has the support of his colleagues such as Kassim Traoré, a Malian reporter.

«We have asked for his bail but we still have not received any answer. » he said.  «The charges are too severe and we know what to expect with such issues.»

According to Kassim Traoré, the journalists have been put under pressure and abuse since the coup.

«I have been frequently arrested at my house and kept for one day in custody. But for Boukary Daou, we are really confused because we do not have any clue about his release.»

The Committee to protect journalists has also denounced in a press relase the charges. The Comittee did a report on press freedom after the coup which show that twelve journalists have suffered from arbitrary detentions.  He saw his colleague yesterday in jail and said he was ready to resist and in good mood.

Violences in 2012 on other Malian journalists

«But we don’t know how long it is going to last.» From France, the spokerperson for the Foreign affairs Ministry, Philippe Lalliot called for the «immediate freeing» of Boukary Daou. And Malian journalists and African journalists based in Paris made a sit-in on the 19th of March in front of the Malian embassy in Paris. 

Screenshot of TV5monde Channel's footage on the protest in Paris to support Boukary Daou

Screenshot of TV5monde Channel’s footage on the protest in Paris to support Boukary Daou

The Malian authorities remain silent on the case for now. The Malian president, Diacounda Traore said a few words three days ago in Dakar about the issue, but it was the same declarations that he made last week. For him the whole article for which Boukary Daou has been condemned is made up by the journalist and he is suspicious that real soldiers are behind this open letter (video).

The country celebrates today the one year anniversary about the coup.

Lilia Blaise

Mali – Tweeting in a war

Ibrahim Sysawane, @sysawane on Twitter, is a Malian student of 29 years old native from Kayes in Eastern Mali. He started to daily use Twitter after the coup in March 22th 2012 which deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure. Since the beginning of the war, he has been tweeting everyday about his daily life in Bamako and the war news.

ibra

What kind of Tweets do you send on a daily basis? Informative? Sharing? 

My use of twitter is primarily to share and inform the outside world about live news related to Mali especially about the war in the north. I also tell about stories of the armed groups such as the MNLA, Ansar Dine or AQIM, and discuss national policy.

Why do you prefer to use Twitter? 

Twitter for me is a place where freedom of speech is guaranteed, without censorship. It is the freedom of expression for the voiceless. During the insurrection of the Malian army last year, a friend told me via phone that things were degrading along the road to Kati. At that time I started to do a live on twitter about the military coup. Many people from the Malian diaspora asked me to go on Twitter and I discovered at that time the importance of this social network.

Do you find that bloggers and Tweeples are useful for providing news in this war?

In my opinion, it is very useful for spreading informationen in real time with speed and especially to inform directly about the war for those who don’t have access to the information. And I hope I can help in a way, by providing information, to also show what happens on the ground.

What do you think of the news about Abu Zeid’s death and the picture of him that appeared on Twitter before the global media?

The death of Abu Zeid was also confirmed by President Idriss Deby with a photo as a proof. It showed that one head of AQIM was actually killed in battle by the French and Chadian troops. But it was reliable news only when  another nearby site AQIM (Sahara Media) confirmed it.

How much can you trust this kind of information on Twitter compared with what you read in global media?

The war in northern Mali is a war going on “behind closed doors” or “without images”, but we are informed and we provide news through social networks like Twitter. I notice that when some media can not cover this war, Twitter succeeds where mainstream media have failed because it’s less controlled. Social networks like Twitter are the best place to inform and be informed.

An example of Ibrahim’s discussing on Twitter: information, sharing and debate are his daily tweets.

ibra2

Interview by Lilia Blaise

Twitter accounts to follow for updates about Mali by RFI

Is freedom of the press threatened in Mali ?

After three days of “dead journey” for the press in Mali, Malian journalists have finally obtained the partial release of their colleague Boukary Daou, director of Le républicain newspaper. His arrest raises questions about freedom of the press in Mali.

Journalists made a statement with what they called a “Dead journey” to support one of their colleague who was arrested last week after having published an open letter from Malian militaries which was critical about one of their chief. It is not a story about the issues of covering the war or even about the exactions of the Malian army. Boukary Daou was arrested by Malian intelligence agents because he had published an open letter on the 6th of March addressed to Amadou Sanogo, an army captain who toppled the Malian president last year. The Malian soldiers  who wrote the letter accused Sanogo causing a political chaos last year with his coup. But they mostly denounce the financial benefits of the salary Sanogo is currently receiving, which is believed to be 8000 dollars per month. Amadou Haya Sanogo was also named to head a government committee to oversee reforms in the military. This decision surprised a lot of observers because of the dark past of Sanogo. In 2012, after the coup, Human Rights Watch denounced security forces’torture and abuses but also their intimidation of journalists:

“Members of state security forces have tried to suppress the publication of information regarding abuses in the aftermath of the failed counter-coup. They have called in for questioning or visited the offices of at least five journalists and two civil servants who were investigating the coup, the treatment of detainees, enforced disappearances, or the existence of a mass grave. While the journalists and civil servants did not suffer any physical aggression during the questioning, they reported being pressured to reveal their sources, drop their investigations, and desist from publishing or speaking about the events. Several believed their phone conversations were routinely intercepted by the state security forces. The intimidation of journalists appears to form part of a wider crackdown on Malian journalism, which began after the March 22 coup and has since intensified.” the Human Rights report says in July 2012.

Screenshot of a supporting campaign for Boukary Daou by the website Maliweb

Screenshot of a supporting campaign for Boukary Daou by the website Maliweb

The untouchable captain?

According to Professor Bruce Whitehouse who writes the blog, Bridges from Bamako, this story reflects what has been left out by international media: the dissension in the army ranks which has been pointed out by the junior officer in the open letter of Boukary Daou. He ends the letter by saying if Sanogo does not answer, he and his colleagues will stop the fighting. According to Bruce Whitehouse, this story raises many problems, such as “who is in charge in Bamako ?” and how much power the armys has. According to BBC report, “Malian authorities say Daou was arrested for being irresponsible and unpatriotic in publishing the letter”. No word from the government has been said on this issue except by Malian Foreign Affairs Minister, Tieman Coulibaly, who said that there was “no junta in Mali” and that Sanogo “is a Malian soldier who can lead the reform”. Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Affairs Minister also said during a TV debate that “military power should be submitted to civil power…” but he also said he was sure that the Malian government would do everything to insure press freedom.US ambasador to Mali also expressed her concern and urged for the protection of media “under the law”.

TV debate on TV5 Monde with Laurent Fabius and Tieman Coulibaly

The Malian Dioncounda Traore spoke out during a press conference and said that the person who signed the letter “Captain Toure” did not exist and accused the journalist to encourage to mutiny for the front soldiers. The Malian president said the law will decide wether he is guilty or not.

The Malian media is supporting Boukary Daou and after three days of symbolic strike,  they suceeded in getting their colleague’s arrest to be handled by the police. Makan Koné, director of the house of press in Mali asked for the freedom of his colleague. The jounalists also denounce the lack of legal procedure for Boukary Daou’s arrest. The International Federation of journalists and the NGO Reporters Without Borders have also supported the movement. This arrest has happened in a quite fragile media landscape without any precise legal frame.

A radio journalist told the BBC it twas not the first time that such arbitrary arrests : The situation is chaotic for the media because there are people in authority who believe that if we’re stopped from denouncing what they’re up to, then they’ll get away with it “ Ramata Dia from Radio Guntan says.

On the 11th of March, during their first general Assembly, thirteen journalists had denounced a degradation of press freedom in Mali according to TV5 Monde report. The country was ranked 25th in Reporters Without Borders report on press freedom in 2012. It is now at the 99th position. Today, Boukary Daou is being judged by the judiciary police but he still risks prosecutions from the military juntia. His colleagues are alo waiting to know more about his treatment when he was imprisoned. No information has been released yet about the soldiers who first wrote the open letter.

Lilia Blaise

War in Mali: the necessity of cautious news

Some say they are dead, other don’t. In less than a week, Chadian newspapers announced the death of one of the key members from AQIM terrorist group and also the death of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the attack in In Amenas. But in France, the news has still not been confirmed. And AQIM has just stated that Abu Zeid is dead but not Belmokhtar. Since the beginning of the war in Mali, how much can we trust the media?

Screenshot of a twit pic on twitter by the caricaturist Damien Glez

Screenshot of a twit pic on twitter by the caricaturist Damien Glez

It was allover Twitter, the news was spreading on the web faster than any other and some media took the information for granted. Two leaders of terrorist groups were killed by Chadian troops according to the news of Friday march 2nd. It has been four days and the French Minister of Defense has still not confirmed it. According to the AFP news agency, the chief of staff of general army forces Edouard Guillaud said that Abu Zeid is “likely” dead, but his corpse has not been found yet. And AQIM has just confirmed on Monday that Abu Zeid was killed but not Belmokhtar which shows once more that there is more to the story than what we think.

alja

tchad

From Chad, the general commanding Chadian troops in northern Mali said Sunday that he was not able to confirm the death of Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Even so, the Chadian government announced it on Chad’s national state television one day before. Every global media took the news, quoting different sources, a “report”or the Chadian government. Somehow the news has not been verified and today, French media remain cautious to release anything.

The press release by the Chadian army about the killing of the two terrorist on the National Chadian TV:

Why is it so difficult to verify such crucial information? On one side, we have the French media and the French news agency based in Paris and who are quite dependent of the army press releases. On the other side, Chadian troops are fighting in the mountains which are difficult to access even for the journalists including those who are embedded.

The American media are the most distant from the conflict and must write news gathered from external sources rather than on direct field observations out of Mali. The best informed recent article was the the WSJ and was written by correspondents based in Ghana and Paris. The only information is therefore coming from the army or anonymous sources according to Sahara media. The website said these sources are “generally well-informed”, but did not give any more details.

It was Chadian general Zakaria Ngobongue who confirmed the killing of Belmokhtar on Saturday after Chadian President Idriss Déby announced the killing of Abdelhamid Abu Zeid on Friday.  According to the Algerian website El Khabar, the Chadian army said in a statement  that ”Chadian troops in Mali completely destroyed the basic rule of jihadists in the Adrar Mountains in a series of Aafogas, specifically in Omatetaa Valley”. Official news and army news seem to be not so reliable, the following days showed. As an official from the Chadian ministry said to the Wall Street Journal, the killed ones were identified by their followers and buried immediately because  “It’s not in our culture to go around with bodies, they are not trophies.” Hassan Syllan, the Chadian Communication Minister, said to the newspaper. Still, according to Hassan Sylla, the fact that Mali and France have not confirmed shows that the research for a body seems to be in jeopardy .

Coverages by the BBC and Al Jazeera of Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s death.

Why did the global media rush to make this announcement? For l’Expression, an Algerian newspaper, it is because some of the news agencies in the United States said they had “very reliable” sources about this without really quoting anyone. Reuters News agencybased its information on a Chad press release but specified that Washington had not confirmed the news. But it also shows that somehow in a world where news is supposed to be more reachable than ever, some is simply impossible to verify. What was the right thing to do? While the Media had to speak about it, they should have stayed in the conditional tone rather than preenting it as a beaking news. Being cautious is therefore the only deontological solution rather than giving unclear and incomplete information. This bring us back to a similar same issue previously raised on this blog, which is the difficulty for journalists to cover a war where information devices d contents are extremely controlled. For instance, why does the French army publish its own videos on its Facebook pages? It was in order to communicate but not to give an impartial information. It may be also the case that the Chadian army is more eager to show they are winning in the war rather than to speak of several Chadian soldiers dead on the field. 26 of them died in battles on the 22th of February on the frontline. Among the other African countries, Chad has sent the biggest contingent in Mali and it confirmed during the Cedeao summit that it was impatient for the fight to come to an end.

Lilia Blaise

On the same subject: The war in Mali by Al Jazeera: Malian speak project and the invisible war

The difficult position of Morocco in Mali

There is a country concerned by the Mali conflict, which is not often present in global news. Morocco plays an important diplomatic and political part in the conflict. Its historical conflict with Algeria could be an issue.

The Moroccan media doesn’t speak a lot about Morocco’s involvement with the war in Mali. But the country is getting more and more involved  with what happens not far from its borders. At the beginning of the conflict, its position was crystal clear: support the French intervention. Besides its deep financial links with France, Morocco has also cultural and tribal connections with Mali according to JeuneAfrique newspaper. The «Chorfa» (people who claimed to be direct descendants from the prophet) are present in both countries and have had a strong relationship for years. Whereas Egypt has condemned the French intervention and Tunisia has stated, it was against a “foreign” military action, Morocco has been helping France by letting its military planes and bombers fly above the country.

ecreen shot of Mohamed VI's encounter with François Hollande in May 2012

screenshot of Mohamed VI encounter with François Holland in May 2012

In September, Malian Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra,also asked for Morocco’s help. According to the newspaper JeuneAfrique, Morocco’s support is also determined by its complex relationship with Algeria, the other lead country in the Sahel zone. Algeria plays an important part in the operations especially since In Amenas hostage crisis, but the country also shares with Morocco the control of the Sahel area. But due to complicated relationships between the two countries they don’t have a common strategy for defense and security. One of the issue is over the Western Sahara’s status. This state is bordering Morocco is seen as a part of the country from Moroccan’s point of view but Algeria disagrees. The Sahrawian opposition movement, the Polisario Front has demanded its independence since the 70’s after the state was not under spanish colonization anymore. Since 2007, the United Nations has asked to Alger and Rabat to find common ground about the Western Sahara situation, which is still a moot point.

In an interview on the channel TV5 Monde, Moroccan Prime Minister, Abdellilah Benkirane, explicitly said that Algeria did not want further involvement from Morocco in the Malian conflict according to Yabiladi website.Benkirane sees the French intervention as the only alternative since Algeria and Morocco could not find a solution together.

In response, Amar Bellani, spokesperson for the Algerian foreign ministry said it was a “mis demeanour” for Benkirane to make such a statement and the newspaper l’Expression questions the motives of such a declaration at a time when the two countries are trying to get closer to find a solution. The newspaper raises an interesting point about the different position between Islamist Benkirane and the King Mohamed VI on this matter.While the former has no interest in Algeria and Marocco finding a common solution, the latter may be more diplomatic according to the newspaper. The opinion was shared by El Watan newspaper which did not understand this “double discourse” of Morocco. El Watan points out that at the same time,Nasser Bourita the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, was assuring Alger of Mohamed VI’s good will to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Today, as the conflict sinks into a long war, will the two countries find a strategy together? While a Moroccan military intervention could not be approved by Algeria, both countries seem to have a political interest seeing the jihadist’s threat come to an end. Morocco stated that security was its first priority at the Cedeao summit last week. According to Le Mag website, a solution does exist: Last Friday, Omar Hilale, Moroccan ambassador to the United Nations amicably called  on Algeria in order to find a common political agreement on the Western Sahara issue. It was an answer to the violation of human rights in Western Sahara denounced by Algeria and a first attempt to solve the problem between the two parties. But this may be more like a diplomatic move rather than a political statement. Alger’s response was not very optimistic. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered it as a way to “make a durable status quo” on Western Sahara without solving the problem he said to TSA Algérie website.

This conflict between Algeria and Morocco should be watched closely because the strategy of the two countries in West Africa will be important in the future of Mali. With the Malian crisis, Morocco could return to heading up a security policy in West Africa. This policy has been on standby since Morocco cancelled its diplomatic relations with countries, including Algeria, which recognized Western Sahara as an independent territory.

Lilia Blaise