NEW YORK, March 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — State security agents in Mali detained an editor today in connection with his newspaper’s publication of an open letter criticizing a financial package awarded to a former coup leader, according to news reports and local journalists.
Six agents of State Security, Mali’s intelligence agency, arrested Boukary Daou, a top editor for the daily Le Républicain, in the capital, Bamako, according to Assane Koné, the paper’s editor-in-chief. Koné told CPJ that several journalists went to the agency’s headquarters to inquire about Daou, but officials denied having him in custody. Local journalists and news reports, which cited an unnamed Malian security official, later confirmed the journalist’s detention.
AFP reported that Daou’s arrest was linked to the publication in today’s edition of Le Républicain of an open letter written by an individual, identified as “Capt. Touré,” claiming to be a Malian army officer serving in the ongoing French-led war in the north against militants linked to Al-Qaeda. An article accompanied the letter. In the letter, which was addressed to President Dioncounda Traoré, the writer protested a financial compensation package that the government had pledged to Amadou Haya Sanogo, who had led a coup on March 22, 2012. The writer, who questioned why a coup leader was being rewarded, threatened to stop fighting if the government did not withdraw the package, AFP said.
A presidential decree in January had named Sanogo the head of a committee tasked with reforming Mali’s security forces and awarded him a salary and other perks that made him the top paid official in the country, according to news reports. 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.
Repeated calls to Manga Dembélé,Mali’s minister of communications and government spokesman, were not returned. Ministry Spokesman Allassane Souleymane told CPJ he had no information about the arrest.
“The arbitrary arrest of Boukary Daou is another example of Malian security agents acting outside the law in trying to harass journalists,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on the government to immediately release Daou.”
At least three journalists have been harassed by State Security agents since the March 2012 coup. Editors Biram Fall and Saouti Labass Haïdara were arbitrarily detained in May in connection with critical articles, and Habi Baby, another editor, was detained for eight days in June.