UN calls on Mali to lift restrictions on new media

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warns that new media restrictions in Mali reflect a growing intolerance of press freedom in the region.

UN human rights officials express deep dismay at Mali’s decision on Wednesday to permanently suspend Radio France International and France 24 from operating there. They urge Mali’s military authorities to reverse the ban and allow independent media to operate freely in the country.

The government temporarily suspended the two international broadcasters on March 16, accusing them of broadcasting false allegations of human rights abuses by the Malian military and Russian mercenaries.

UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the current climate of fear in Mali was having a chilling effect on journalists and bloggers.

“There is a lot of self-censorship. There is a lot of pressure,” she said. “There have been a number of journalists – local, regional, international, who have come under pressure. Licenses revoked.… Journalists try to avoid covering sensitive subjects, so as not to fall under the blow of the authorities.

Shamdasani said UN human rights monitors continued to document allegations of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in many parts of Mali. On the contrary, she said, the prevailing situation in the country demands more, not less, scrutiny.

However, she said, Mali is not the only country where attacks on freedom of expression and opinion are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity.

“We are seeing a worrying trend in some of the other West African countries as well,” she said. “And that applies not only to freedom of expression and then to the work of journalists, but also to civic space and civil society as a whole. . There seems to be a growing intolerance for dissent, unfortunately .

Shamdasani said journalists around the world are under threat and journalists are increasingly discredited for their reporting, accused of bias or spreading false information. She said governments have many tools they can use to intimidate journalists and prevent the free flow of information.

She said governments were increasingly using surveillance to control the work of journalists, adding that it was more difficult for them to protect their sources, gather information, report abuses and bring perpetrators to justice. of crimes.

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