Dakar — The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed and saddened by an attack on four journalists in northeastern Mali by unidentified gunmen last month, in which one journalist was killed, a second injured, and two were kidnapped.
On November 7, the attackers fired on the journalists' vehicle between the eastern town of Ansongo and the city of Gao, where the four planned to attend a journalism training about identifying false information, their colleagues Radio Coton reporter Ibrahima Ag Ablil and Radio Naata director Ousmane Abdoulaye Touré told CPJ.
Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla, a presenter with Radio Naata, a community station in Labbezanga on the Mali-Niger border, was killed; Harouna Attino, a news presenter on the Ansongo-based community radio Alafiya, was wounded; and Assaleh Ag Joudou, director of Ansongo-based Radio Coton, and Moustapha Koné, a host at Radio Coton, were kidnapped, they said.
Later that day, the gunmen phoned Issoufa Touré, director of Ansongo-based radio station Aadar Koukia and a friend of the kidnapped Ag Joudou, demanding a ransom payment of 6 million West African CFA francs (US$9,975) in exchange for the two journalists, who they said had not been injured, according to news reports and the journalists' Radio Coton colleague Ag Ablil.
Touré and Ag Ablil told CPJ that they did not believe the journalists had been targeted for their work, as similar attacks have taken place in recent months on the Ansongo-Gao road.
Mali has been battling Islamist militants for over a decade. Violence has worsened since the West African nation's military government ordered United Nations peacekeepers to leave in June.
"Journalists in Mali and across the Sahel too often grapple with the prospect of being killed or kidnapped in what is widely seen as one of the most dangerous regions in the world," Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator, said on Tuesday from Durban, South Africa. "Whenever journalists are killed or kidnapped, it sends a chilling message of insecurity to all the other members of the press working in the area and compromises the public's right to information because of self-censorship."
Previously, unidentified gunmen kidnapped journalists Hamadoun Nialibouly, program director of private radio station Dandé Douentza, and Moussa M'Bana Dicko, head of programs with the private radio station Dande Haïré, in September 2020 and in April 2021, respectively, in the Mopti region of central Mali, according to news reports. CPJ has been unable to confirm the reasons for their kidnappings.
Calls and messages to the office of Mali's Minister of Communication Alhamdou AG Ilyène went unanswered, and the office of government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga declined CPJ's request for comment.
Militants abducted French journalist Olivier Dubois in Gao in 2021 and held him for nearly two years before releasing him in March.