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Journalist Ibrahim Famakan Coulibaly assaulted by security forces for protesting teacher's imprisonment

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 21 June 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Release of Journalists Detained in Mali for Article on Fictional Presidential Sex Scandal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the court in Mali's capital city of Bamako to immediately release from jail and drop charges against four editors, a journalist and a teacher for "offence against the head of state" after the publication of an article about a school assignment on a sex scandal involving a fictional president.

The journalist and the teacher have been detained since last Thursday, 14 June. The four editors were arrested yesterday after they republished the article in question. According to sources, the editors are accused of "complicity of offence against the head of state."

"We condemn this imprisonment, which is a clear abuse of power by the public prosecutor," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "We call on President Amadou Toumani Touré to ensure that the prosecutor throws out this case immediately. It sullies the image of Mali, which is seen in the region as a model democracy with respect for freedom of expression."

At a protest today, Ibrahim Famakan Coulibaly, president of both the Malian Journalists' Association and the West African Journalists' Association was beaten by security forces and wounded in the legs. Security forces also fired tear gas at the protesting journalists, who demonstrated in front of the office of the Justice Minister for the release of their colleagues.

"We are outraged by the attack on Coulibaly," Baglo said. "We support the protests by Malian journalists and stand in solidarity with them against these unjust charges."

The IFJ is backing the call by Mali's journalists that authorities release immediately and unconditionally journalist Seydina Oumar Diarra, editors Sambi Touré of Info-Matin, Ibrahima Fall of Le Républicain, Alexis Kalambry of Les Echos and Haméye Cissé of Le Scorpion and teacher Bassirou Kassim Minta and to withdraw all the charges against them on the grounds that neither the article nor even the teacher's assignment in any way offends the President of the Republic.

Diarra, a journalist with the private daily newspaper Info-Matin, and Minta, a literature teacher at a private high school of Bamako, have been in jail since June 14. Their imprisonment came after Diarra published an article in the June 1 edition of Info-Matin criticizing Minta for assigning students to write an essay about an unnamed president who is involved in a sex scandal.

"These charges are baseless and appear to be an attempt to intimidate newspapers who do not support the ruling party," Baglo said. "The government cannot jail journalists and editors simply because it does not agree with them or doesn't like their articles."

The four editors, the journalist and the teacher are due to appear on June 26 in criminal court in Bamako.

In solidarity with their colleagues, other newspapers promised to publish the articles. The paper La Nouvelle République published the article in its edition today.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries.

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