Accra — Journalists in Mali are accusing the military authorities of illegally tapping their telephones as a means of silencing critical opinion in the country.
The accusation followed the arrest and subsequent detention of Birama Fall, managing editor of Le Prétoire, a privately-owned Bamako-based bi-weekly newspaper on May 12, 2012. The authorities had illegally listened to Fall's phone conversation with a former government minister over civilian deaths during the recent counter coup attempt. Fall was, however, released after two hours without charge.
The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that the authorities accused the managing editor of conspiring with the former minister to exaggerate the death toll.
According to the authorities, twenty-seven persons died during the unsuccessful counter-coup on April 30. The official figures were disputed by Malians who claimed the figure does not represent the number of persons buried at the alleged existing "mass grave."
Fall after his release said "I actually had wind of an unconfirmed figure of more than two hundred deaths, information I did not intend to publish because I had not confirmed it."
In a widespread condemnation, Malian press organisations and associations have said the editor's arrest has brought to light a new form of attack against the media in the country.
The MFWA adds its voice to the condemnation of the military authorities and demands an end to hostilities against the media in Mali, which until the illegal takeover was one of the freest countries in Africa.