Lagos — A journalist in Mali was charged on Monday with incitement to mutiny and publishing false information in connection with his publication of an article that was critical of a former coup leader, according to news reports.
Boukary Daou, a top editor for the daily Le Républicain, has been in custody since March 6, according to news reports. He was held incommunicado by State Security for eight days before being handed over to the Judicial Investigation Brigade of the police. If convicted, the journalist faces a maximum prison sentence of three years and fine of 150 million CFA francs, Assane Koné, editor-in-chief of Le Républicain, told CPJ. His lawyers have filed a petition seeking his release on bail pending trial. His next court date is scheduled for April 16, Koné said.
Daou was arrested the day his paper published an open letter from a purported Malian army officer to President Dioncounda Traoré. In the letter, the officer, identified as Cpt. Touré, protested a financial compensation package offered to Amadou Haya Sanogo, who had led a coup on March 22, 2012, but had recently been nominated to reform and lead Mali's security forces. The writer questioned why a former coup leader was being rewarded and threatened to stop fighting if the government did not withdraw the package.
Sanogo had ceded power to Traoré's government three weeks after the 2012 coup, which precipitated instability in the country as ethnic Tuareg separatists and Al-Qaeda-linked militants seized half the country.
"We condemn the decision by a Malian judge to criminally prosecute journalist Boukary Daou for publishing an opinion critical of a public policy," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. "We urge the public prosecutor to abandon charges that criminalize press freedom and freedom of expression. Daou should be released pending trial."
President Traoré said Daou's detention was part of the current state of emergency in Mali, which gives the government and local authorities sweeping powers of search, seizure, and arrest in the name of national security, according to news reports.
Mali's press corps had staged a nationwide news blackout to protest Daou's arrest. The blackout was lifted on Friday, but a media boycott of coverage of all government institutions remained in place, according to Koné.