Thirty media outlets, journalists' associations and freedom of expression organisations on Wednesday called on the ruling juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso to protect journalists in the face of growing threats.
In an open letter published on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the signatories of the appeal said that the situation of journalists in Burkina Faso has become "critical".
They are alarmed by "calls for the murder of journalists and opinion leaders, threats and intimidation of the national press, grotesque set-ups against journalists, suspension of the international media RFI and France 24, expulsion of correspondents from the French newspapers Libération and Le Monde".
In Mali, too, "pressure and intimidation" are on the increase, say the signatories, who include a number of Burkinabe media outlets, the Malian television station Joliba, the French media France 24, Libération, Le Monde and Radio France Internationale, as well as journalists' associations and rights organisations.
In this letter addressed to the heads of major African and international organisations, the signatories point to the repressive actions of the authorities. "The fight against terrorism must never be used as a pretext for imposing a new information standard," they say, referring to the spread of jihadism and all kinds of violence facing the two Sahelian countries.
But, increasingly, the attacks are also the work of "influencers" who, on social networks, "play vigilante and do not hesitate to threaten journalists and opinion leaders who are too independent in their eyes with death," they add.
The signatories of the document call on the Malian and Burkinabe authorities to "put an end to all measures that undermine press freedom" and to "guarantee the protection" of media professionals. They call for "impartial, effective and independent investigations" into the abuses committed.
In a gloomy report published a month ago, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the Sahel region was in danger of becoming "Africa's biggest news blackout zone", denouncing a "constant deterioration" in the working conditions of the local and international press.
Mali and Burkina have been ruled by juntas since 2020 and 2022 respectively.