Bamako – Mali’s communications authority said on Thursday it had lifted the suspension of one of the Sahel country’s main news channels, taken off the air a month ago over criticism of the junta.
The channel had on October 13 been put on notice over a September 30 editorial by Mohamed Halidou Attaher.
On November 3, the High Authority for Communication (HAC) suspended Joliba TV for two months, accusing it of “serious and repeated violations of the substantial provisions of the code of journalism in Mali”.
That had included “defamatory remarks and unfounded accusations concerning the regulatory body… the state of freedom of expression in Mali and the authorities of the transition”, said the HAC.
The authority told AFP it had subsequently taken “into account the mediation and appeals for clemency by… professional media associations”.
It was “sensitive (to) the economic consequences” of the measure on the channel and its workers, it added in the statement sent Thursday to AFP.
Halidou’s comments followed the return of Prime Minister Abdoulaye Maiga from the UN General Assembly in New York, where he had delivered an incendiary speech against France.
“Intolerance is on the rise in our country”, the journalist said in his editorial.
“Freedom of expression is in danger, and so is democracy. We are in the dictatorship of one-track thinking.”
He went on: “For the time being, the colonels in power govern with a mob mentality, and the mob by definition does not think.”
He also urged the HAC to play its “full role” in handling social media abuse.
The formal notice to the channel provoked indignant reactions by Malian journalists worried about freedom of expression and press freedom in the country.
In August, Human Rights Watch denounced the “detention and harassment of alleged critics” in Mali since the junta came to power after coups in 2020 and 2021.
The rights watchdog listed obstacles to freedom of expression, including the expulsion of journalists, suspended accreditations for foreign correspondents and the “harassment” of government critics by “online commentators”.
The “repression of the media and detentions of critics have had a chilling effect on political life and civic space”, it added.