Journalist killed in northern Mali, two others abducted
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the fatal shooting of a local radio journalist and the abduction of two others by unidentified gunmen as they travelled together by road in northern Mali on 7 November to attend a workshop for media personnel. Local journalists are now on the front line in a seriously degraded security environment in Mali, and their protection is a major challenge, says RSF.
Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla, a journalist with community radio Naata, was killed, while Radio Coton FM director Saleck Ag Jiddou, also known as Zeidane, and Radio Coton FM host Moustapha Koné were taken hostage by the gunmen who attacked their car as they drove along the 90-km road from the small town of Ansongo to the city of Gao.
When the journalists saw the gunmen ahead on the road, they tried to turn back. But, in response, the gunmen sprayed their car with automatic gunfire, killing Djibrilla instantly, and then abducted Jiddou and Koné. According to the Mali Union of Free Radio and TV Broadcasters (URTEL), the kidnappers have asked the families to pay 3 million CFA francs (4,500 euros) in ransom for each journalist.
RSF has learned that a fourth person in the car, Harouna Attino, a journalist with Ansongo-based community radio Alafia, was wounded in the attack but is now safe.
The latest events in Mali are extremely alarming. Gunmen killed journalist Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla and took two of his colleagues hostage. These two journalists are still in the hands of their captors more than a week after the attack on their vehicle. We call on the Malian authorities to do everything possible to find them and to arrest those responsible for Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla’s murder. Local journalists are now the last ramparts against the total abandonment of the right to information in this northern part of the Sahel, which is prey to the terror of various armed groups and the responses from regular armies. The safety of journalists is a major challenge and those working in this region must be protected.
To express their outrage at the killing and hostage-taking, journalists in the north declared “a day without radio” on 8 November, the day after the attack, suspending broadcasts in Gao, Ansongo and Ménaka. The president of the Mali Press House, Bandiougou Danté, called on the authorities to act “so that the authors, co-authors, accomplices and instigators answer for their actions and are brought to justice.”
Abdoulaye Maïga, the spokesman of Mali’s military-led “transition government,” did not respond to RSF’s requests for information.
Four journalists kidnapped since 2020
Last week’s attack came against the backdrop of an extremely degraded security environment for journalists in northern Mali, which has been exacerbated by a military offensive against Kidal, a city 350 km northeast of Gao, that has been held by rebel groups for more than ten years. Mali’s army announced on 14 November that it has regained control of the city.
The kidnapping of Jiddou and Koné brings to four the number of currently missing journalists as a result of abductions in Mali since 2020: Hamadoun Nialibouly was kidnapped in Somadougou, in the central Mopti region, on 27 September 2020, while Moussa M’Bana Dicko was kidnapped in Boni, in the centre-east, on 18 April 2021.
Last week’s shooting and abductions came just five days after the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the abduction and murder of visiting Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in Kidal on 2 November 2013. For the past 10 years, the dangers for journalists have been growing in this part of Mali and throughout the Sahel in general.
A report entitled “What it’s like to be a journalist in the Sahel” that RSF published in April describes the growing threats to journalism in Africa’s Sahel region, which is in the process of becoming a “no-news zone.” The report was published two weeks after the release of Olivier Dubois, a French reporter who was kidnapped on 8 April 2021 in Gao and was held hostage for 711 days by an armed group affiliated to Al-Qaeda.