Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has put the websites of two major French broadcasters back online in Mali, after the country’s military government pulled the broadcasters off the air in March and officially banned them from the Malian airwaves this week.
RSF put the sites back online Thursday, creating mirrors of the sites that can be accessed in Mali and are updated in real time.
Using a virtual private network had previously been the only way to access those websites in Mali since the military government blocked them and took their corresponding TV and radio stations off the air March 17.
Arnaud Froger, head of the RSF Africa desk, said that the action is part of the organization's work toward media freedom.
He said RSF has been getting banned media websites back online since 2015, so far having put 47 websites back online in 24 countries, most recently in Russia.
“It’s basically restoring your right to access to information that has been wrongfully denied by this censorship,” Froger said.
On Wednesday, France Medias Monde, the parent company of RFI and France 24, said it was notified of the decision of Mali’s High Communication Authority to definitively ban the two stations in the country.
The High Communication Authority is the communication regulatory body in Mali, whose website says its primary mission is to protect “freedom of information and communication” and “freedom of the press.”
RFI and France 24 were taken off the air in March after RFI reported on alleged human rights abuses by Mali’s army around the town of Diabaly. Mali’s government said the report contained false allegations aimed at “destabilizing” the government.
In late March, after the French broadcast ban, Human Rights Watch and several media outlets reported on a Mali army operation in the town of Moura, where witnesses said 300 civilians were killed.
Tensions have been running high between the Malian and French governments. This month, France accused Russian mercenaries of staging a mass grave in Gossi, Mali, in order to blame it on French forces who had recently handed over a military base in Gossi to the Malian army.
Mali’s government then accused France of spying, but did not mention or refute the claim that Russian mercenaries are working with the Malian army.