News / Africa

Journalists Face Hurdles Reaching Northern Mali

A Malian soldier gestures at journalists to leave the area of a French air strike. Image was taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, north of Mali's capital Bamako, January 26, 2013.
A Malian soldier gestures at journalists to leave the area of a French air strike. Image was taken during an official visit organized by the Malian army to the town of Konna, north of Mali's capital Bamako, January 26, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Nancy Palus
— Media advocacy groups say the offensive by French and Malian troops against Islamist militants in northern Mali has taken place largely out of view, as journalists’ access has been severely limited. Little by little local and international reporters are getting into the north, but some say access remains difficult.
 
Many journalists covering the situation in Mali - especially foreign reporters - have spent a good bit of time trying to get beyond Sévaré, the central town that was the dividing line between the government-controlled south and rebel-held north.
 
Reporters who were in Mali when fighting broke out in January said the military blocked journalists from entering two of the first towns to see combat - Konna and Diabaly - for several days.  When journalists finally arrived the towns were full of soldiers and residents appeared afraid to recount what they saw.
 
The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern about what it calls "a grave obstruction," urging the Malian and French authorities to allow reporters to move about freely.
 
Malian Defense Ministry spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Diarran Koné said aside from barring civilians from combat zones for their own safety, the authorities are not restricting journalists.  He commented on the “very, very, very many reporters” who have flooded into Mali in recent weeks, saying all of those requesting accreditation are receiving it.  But some journalists are finding that in many cases that piece of paper is not enough.
 
Journalist Katarina Höije, who spoke with VOA by phone from Mopti in central Mali, said even with the required authorization papers from the Information Ministry, many journalists are being blocked from moving north.  
 
"You get through most checkpoints with this but as soon as you get to a major town or try to leave a town north of Sévaré there’s problems," Höije said. "They say you have to have special accreditation from the ministry of defense… It enables you to move around but still you’re in Sévaré, you’re very, very far from the front and anything that’s actually happening."

She said that on Wednesday she and some other reporters who made it to Douentza, northeast of Sévaré, were ordered by Malian soldiers to turn back.  She said often the military authorities tell journalists it is for their own protection.
 
Indeed safety is an issue.  European or North American journalists are at risk for kidnapping.  And it appears that some of the roads are mined.  Four Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a mine outside the northern city of Gao on Thursday.
 
But Reporters Without Borders said in a January 17 statement: “In war time, it is up to journalists and their news organizations, not the military, to determine the risk they are prepared to take in order to gather information.”
 
For concerns over possible mines, and to avoid being turned back by Malian soldiers at roadblocks, some journalists are resorting to paying as much as 2,000 euro for private charter flights to the north.
 
One Malian journalist, who spoke with VOA while on the road back to the capital Bamako from Gao, said he has seen a number of journalists, particularly foreign reporters, blocked at Sévaré.  But he said by now a number of foreign journalists have made it to the north; he saw several in Gao.
 
One western journalist said the French military has taken journalists up in planes or convoys but space is limited.  She said the access restrictions are frustrating but that there are legitimate security concerns.
 
Freelance journalist Marc-André Boisvert has been to Mali several times in recent months, including one trip three weeks ago just after the fighting began.  He said that even several months back, during the occupation of the north, the Malian authorities were blocking journalists at Sévaré.
 
Journalist Höije said the world is getting a piecemeal picture of what is happening in northern Mali.
 
"The reporting is very limited. We would see a completely different picture if more journalists were let up there," she said.

Reporters Without Borders says it is critical that journalists be allowed to see for themselves what is happening on the ground, especially amid reports of war crimes by Malian soldiers.
 
Human rights groups are calling for investigations into alleged rights violations by both the Malian army and Islamic militants.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John
January 31, 2013 6:23 PM
The French are having to beg logistic support from the Yanks and the Brits. The African intervention force is still not there, in part because the African countries certainly can't provide the transport. If a journo was kidnapped, and her rape and torture displayed on YouTube, the political pressure from the media to waste resources trying to find her would be irresistible. Forcing such pests to pay thousands of euros for their own transport is only common sense.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid