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Mali suspends 2 French state broadcasters

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BAMAKO: Mali’s military has ordered French state-funded broadcasters RFI and France 24 off the air, complaining they had falsely accused the army of committing abuses.

The government in Bamako “categorically rejects these false accusations against the courageous FAMA (Malian Armed Forces),” spokesperson Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said on Thursday.

The military is “initiating proceedings… to suspend broadcasts by RFI and France 24… until further notice,” he said.

The European Union lashed out at the ban calling it “unacceptable” and said the accusations on which it was based were “unfounded.”

“By attacking the freedom of the press, the freedom to inform and to be informed, the junta is continuing and confirming that it is pushing ahead regardless,” foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said in Brussels.

RFI and France 24 were still broadcasting on Thursday morning in the Sahel nation.

There is no recent precedent in Mali for major foreign news media to be taken off the air.

RFI (Radio France Internationale) and France 24 cover African news extensively in the former French colony.

France Medias Monde, the parent company of RFI and France 24, said on Thursday that it “deplores” the decision to take its broadcasters off the air.

The junta, which seized power in August 2020, said there had been “false accusations” in a report early in the week in which RFI aired comments from alleged victims of abuse by the army and shadowy Russian private-security group Wagner.

Maiga said Malian news websites, newspapers, and its national radio and TV stations were all “banned from rebroadcasting and/or publishing programs and news articles put out by RFI and France 24”.

He compared the French broadcasters to Rwanda’s Radio Mille Collines – a notorious outlet that incited listeners to exterminate minority Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

“Certain allegations, particularly those advanced by RFI, have no other objective than to sow hatred,” he said, adding that this demonstrated the “criminal intent” of some journalists.

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