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FRANCE 24 and RFI contest ‘definitive’ broadcasting suspension in Mali

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Mali’s media regulator on Wednesday ordered the definitive suspension of FRANCE 24 television and RFI radio in the country, a month after the country’s ruling military junta accused the news organisations of reporting “false allegations” of abuse by the Malian army. The broadcasters’ parent company France Médias Monde said it “strongly contested” the decision.

FRANCE 24 and its sister radio RFI have been suspended in the West African country since March 17. The country’s media regulator, the Haute Autorité de la communication, announced on Wednesday that their suspension was “definitive”.

The French broadcasters are subsidiaries of France Médias Monde (FMM), a state-owned holding company. They are followed by a third of Mali’s population.

Responding to the regulator’s order, FMM said it “strongly contested” the decision and would “study all avenues of appeal”. The group also reiterated its “unwavering commitment to the independence and freedom of the media”.

In a statement, France Médias Monde said it would continue to cover the news in Mali. It pledged to provide technical solutions to ensure Malians can continue to have access to the two broadcasters.

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Mali’s junta first announced the suspension in a statement on March 17, in which it accused FRANCE 24 and RFI of “a premeditated strategy aimed at destabilising the political transition, demoralising the Malian people and discrediting the Malian army”.

The Malian junta has staged two coups since August 2020. It has been accused of violations by several human rights groups, including in a March 15 report by Human Rights Watch, which accused Malian soldiers of responsibility for the killing of at least 17 civilians since early December.

The allegations of abuse in Mali were also made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and subsequently reported by RFI and FRANCE 24.

The French government had called Mali's initial suspension of the French broadcasters a grave attack on the liberty of the press. Speaking at a press conference on March 17, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the decision to suspend FRANCE 24 and RFI.

“I condemn with the greatest firmness this decision, which seems to me totally at odds with the values espoused by the people of Mali since its independence,” Macron said.

Earlier this year, France announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta. French troops were in Mali on a military mission, fighting against al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) group-linked jihadist groups in the Sahel area.

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