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.
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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' 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.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs