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Mali silences critics with harsh prison sentences

A court in Mali has handed a two-year prison sentence to Dr Etienne Fakaba Sissoko to crown two months of harassment of the economist and lecturer of the University of Bamako.  The court also fined Dr Sissoko 3 million CFA Francs (about $4,900) in damages.

Sissoko’s charges include harming the reputation of the state, defamation, and dissemination of false news that disturbs the public peace. The charges stem from Sissoko’s book “Propagande, agitation et harcèlement, la communication gouvernementale pendant la transition au Mali”, which examined the military government’s alleged use of propaganda, manipulation, and lies to influence public opinion.

Before his arrest on March 25, 2024, Sissoko had made a Facebook post calling for democratic elections to be held this year as the junta promised after it seized power.

Sissoko’s arrest on March 25 followed closely on the heels of a similar crackdown on a senior army officer, Colonel Alpha Yaya Sangaré. The officer was arrested on March 2, 2024, after he authored a book highlighting the armed forces’ abuses against civilians in their anti-insurgency campaign. Published in late 2023, the 400-page book titled “Mali: Le défi du terrorisme en Afrique” (The Challenge of Terrorism in Africa), angered the junta who issued a rejoinder and followed it up with the arrest.

Freedom of expression has come under attack in Mali, with increasing cases of detentions, and even forced disappearances of people who express dissenting views.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and subsequent sentencing of Etienne Fakaba Sissoko and calls for his unconditional release. We urge Malian authorities to guarantee the citizens’ fundamental right to expression as a vital condition for inclusive governance.

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