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

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

update At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid