Mali’s media regulator has ordered the definitive suspension of RFI radio and France 24 television in the country, a month after its ruling military junta accused the news organisations of reporting “false allegations” of abuse by the Malian army. The broadcasters’ parent company, France Médias Monde (FMM), has “strongly contested” the decision.
Radio France Internationale and sister TV station France 24 have been suspended in Mali since 17 March. The West African country’s media regulator, the Haute Autorité de la communication, said on Wednesday that their suspension would be “definitive”.
The French broadcasters are subsidiaries of 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”.
FMM said it would continue to cover the news in Mali. It pledged to provide technical solutions to ensure Malians could continue to access the two broadcasters.
Mali’s junta accuses RFI and France 24 of “a premeditated strategy aimed at destabilising the political transition, demoralising the Malian people and discrediting the Malian army”.
The junta has staged two coups since August 2020. It has been accused of violations by several human rights groups, including in a 15 March 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.
“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,” President Emmanuel Macron told a press conference.
Earlier this year, France announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the junta.
French troops were in Mali on a military mission, fighting against al Qaeda and Islamic State group-linked jihadist groups in the Sahel area.