Reporters Without Borders is outraged to learn that Boukary Daou, a newspaper editor who has been held since 6 March for publishing an army officer's open letter, was finally charged yesterday with "inciting disobedience" and "publishing false news" and was transferred to Bamako's main prison.
"Are journalists seen as enemies in Mali?" Reporters Without Borders asked. "Is reporting what is said by soldiers who are defending the people regarded as a highly reprehensible act deserving military and judicial punishment? How can Mali flout the law and democratic freedoms when it is fighting to reestablish them in the north?
"We urge the relevant authorities to demonstrate their commitment to freedom of information by immediately releasing Boukary Daou and dropping the charges against him. The Malian press must be given assurances that it will be protected by the institutions of the state, instead of having to see them as a new source of threats."
The editor of Le Républicain, Daou was arrested at the newspaper's headquarters in Bamako on 6 March, a few hours after publishing an army officer's open letter calling on interim President Dioncounda Traoré to rescind the "benefits granted" to Capt. Amadou Sanogo, an army officer who led a military coup in March 2012.
Daou was held by State Security in degrading conditions for more than a week before being transferred to the Judicial Investigation Squad. The prosecutor's office finally decided yesterday to charge him and keep him in custody. He is due to appear before a judge to answer to the charges on 16 April.
Daou's illegal detention has outraged fellow journalists in Mali. Newspapers and radio stations suspended operations from 12 to 15 March and journalists are due to meet again to day to decide whether to resume the protest.
Mali is ranked 99th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.