IFJ Says Mali “Taking Huge Step Back” on Press Freedom after Journalist, Editors Sentenced to Jail

The International federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the jail sentences imposed on one Malian journalist, four editors and a teacher over charges of offence or complicity in offence against the head of state after several newspapers published a story about a school assignment on a sex scandal involving a fictional president.

“This decision is an unacceptable attack on independent journalism,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa office. “Mali is taking a huge step back in its commitment to press freedom.”

A criminal court in Bamako convicted Seydina Oumar Diarra, the journalist who wrote the article, and sentenced him to 13 days in prison. Diarra had already served this time since his arrest and was freed on Tuesday. Diarra’s editor Sambi Touré was given an 8-month suspended jail sentence.

The three other editors were convicted and were given four-month suspended jail sentences. The teacher who gave the assignment to his class was given a two-month prison sentence and banned from teaching in the country for two months.

The teacher and the journalist were each fined 100.000 FCFA (150 euros). The four editors were each fined 200.000 FCFA (300 euros).

The IFJ called for the decision to be overturned. The lawyers of the convicted journalists plan to file an appeal.

Diarra, a journalist with the private daily newspaper Info-Matin, and Bassirou Kassim Minta, a literature teacher at a private high school of Bamako, have been in jail since June 14. Their imprisonment came 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.

The four editors Sambi Touré of Info-Matin, Ibrahima Fall of Le Républicain, Alexis Kalambry of Les Echos and Haméye Cissé of Le Scorpion were arrested on 21 June after they republished the article in question.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents about 600,000 journalists in more than 115 countries