Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has brought the websites of two major French broadcasters back online in Mali, after the country’s military government took the broadcasters off the air in March and officially terminated them. banned from the Malian airwaves this week.
RSF brought the sites back online on Thursday, creating mirrors of the sites accessible in Mali and updating in real time.
Using a virtual private network was previously the only way to access these websites in Mali since the military government blocked them and removed their corresponding TV and radio stations on March 17.
Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s Africa desk, said the move was part of the organization’s work for media freedom.
He said RSF had revived banned media websites since 2015, having so far revived 47 websites in 24 countries, most recently in Russia.
“It’s basically restoring your right to access information that was wrongfully denied by this censorship,” Froger said.
On Wednesday, France Médias Monde, the parent company of RFI and France 24, said it had been notified of the decision by Mali’s High Authority for Communication to permanently ban the two channels from the country.
The High Authority for Communication is the communication regulatory body in Mali, whose website states that 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 allegations of human rights abuses by the Malian army around the town of Diabaly. The Malian 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 Malian army operation in the town of Moura, where witnesses said 300 civilians had been killed.
Tensions are high between the Malian and French governments. This month, France accused Russian mercenaries of setting up a mass grave in Gossi, Mali, to shift the blame to French forces who had recently handed over a military base in Gossi to the Malian army.
The Malian government then accused France of espionage, but did not mention or refute the claim that Russian mercenaries were working with the Malian military.