The head of Mali's public broadcasting service has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for a criminal defamation charge brought by a union of judges, report the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters sans frontières (RSF). On 16 May, a court convicted Sidiki Konaté, head of the Office of Radio and Television in Mali (ORTM), of criminal defamation. The Autonomous Union of the Magistracy filed charges against both ORTM and the mayor of Bamako, Ibrahima N'Diaye, after a 26 March television programme in which the mayor accused Malian magistrates of being corrupt and inefficient, according to WAJA, CPJ and RSF. Sidiki was also sentenced to pay a fine of US$1,350. The mayor received a 30-day jail sentence and a US$4,000 fine, note WAJA and CPJ. Under Malian press law, the ORTM is punishable for having broadcast the mayor's remarks, while the mayor is considered an accomplice, says RSF.
WAJA and CPJ call for the repeal of the law under which Sidiki has been charged. The two organisations note that journalists have been relatively free from state harassment until recently, but are concerned by deteriorating press conditions. Last August, for example, journalist Chahana Takiou was assaulted inside the National Assembly building by Mamadou Gassama Diaby, a member of parliament from the ruling Democratic Alliance of Mali (ADEMA), notes CPJ. The assault may have resulted from an article on corruption within ADEMA that Takiou had published weeks earlier.
For more information, see www.cpj.org