With an armed conflict in the north, political uncertainty in the capital and humanitarian needs among thousands displaced by the fighting, the West African nation of Mali does not lack for news. You wouldn’t know that recently, however, as Mali’s newspapers and broadcasters went on strike to protest their treatment by some in government.
Journalists agreed to cease operations March 12 to demand the release of Boukary Daou.
Journalists met and agreed to cease operations March 12 to demand the release of Boukary Daou, publication director of the Republican, a daily newspaper in the capital Bamako, who was detained by the nation’s intelligence service.
While no judicial action against Mr. Daou has been announced, he remains in detention for publishing a letter purporting to be from frontline soldiers criticizing the salary paid to Captain Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the coup that toppled the nation’s former president last year. In the letter, the soldiers called on Mali’s acting President Dioncounda Traore to review Sanago’s pay or they would stop fighting. The president, however, seemed to dismiss their concerns, saying that encouraging troops to desert goes beyond freedom of the press.
Daou’s arrest follows the beatings of two other Malian journalists in separate incidents in recent weeks by masked gunmen in military uniforms. No one has been arrested in the attacks on the journalists, whose publications have been critical of Sanogo and soldiers around him who continue to interfere in political affairs though they had pledged to step aside after the interim government took office.
The United States is following Mr. Daou’s arrest closely. A free press is a crucial part of any democratic society, in all spheres including human rights, and it should be strongly supported.