Mali’s National Human Rights Commission has condemned restrictions on press freedom, after authorities suspended one the country’s main TV channels. Action was taken against Joliba TV after it aired an editorial criticizing rising intolerance and attacks on freedom of expression.
The commission released a statement Tuesday expressing “concern about the exercise of certain civil and political rights, in particular those relating to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
The statement called on Mali’s government to ensure respect for these rights “at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances.”
The commission, which serves in an advisory role to the government, also condemned “all restrictions or attempts to restrict” freedom of expression and the press.
Last week, Mali’s High Authority of Communication (HAC) suspended one of the country’s main news channels, Joliba TV News. The authority accused Joliba TV of “serious and repeated breaches and violations of the substantive provisions of the code of ethics for journalism in Mali.”
Joliba’s director of information, Mohamed Attaher Halidou, was summoned to HAC in October over an editorial in which he expressed concern about attacks on freedom of expression and democracy by the ruling military government, and in which he called on the HAC to speak on the issue.
The HAC accused Halidou of making “defamatory remarks and unfounded accusations” concerning freedom of expression in Mali and the “transitional authorities.”
Halidou has spoken openly about freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Mali, telling VOA News in March that self-censorship was rampant in the Malian media, as journalists feared reprisals from the government.
Malian authorities this year have refused to grant accreditation to foreign journalists and detained or targeted several prominent government critics.
The HAC was also behind the decision earlier this year to take France 24 and Radio France Internationale off the air in Mali indefinitely following reports on alleged human rights abuses by Mali’s army.
Halidou spoke out against the decision at the time, again in a televised editorial, deploring in one of many instances the lack of freedom of expression and press freedom in the country.
Joliba TV released a statement last week confirming receipt of the HAC’s decision and saying it had already composed an appeal.
Maison de la Presse, Mali’s main media advocacy organization, also released a short statement saying it regrets “the suspension of Joliba TV News,” and called on the High Authority of Communication to reconsider its decision.