the Sahel, “one of the biggest information black holes”

the Sahel, “one of the biggest information black holes”
the Sahel, “one of the biggest information black holes”
In the world in general and Africa in particular, information deserts have appeared since certain countries in the Sahel, in the context of transition, have military regimes at their head.

The area of ​​press freedom has been considerably reduced in the region due to conflicts and the jihadist presence. Access to certain areas is almost impossible. Journalists are also subject to multiple pressures and arrests. For Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “the Sahel has become one of the biggest information black holes.”

The space for press freedom has been considerably reduced in the face of pressure, arrests or, as in Burkina Faso, forced requisitions alongside the army.

In the space of three years, more than a dozen international and local media outlets have been temporarily or completely suspended in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger (including RFI, VOA, BBC, Deutsche Welle, France 24, Le Monde and many more). ‘others).

The expulsion and non-issuance of visas or accreditation to foreign journalists marked the desire of these regimes to free themselves from a pluralist press deemed non-compliant with their principles. In addition to pressure and obstacles from the authorities, journalists there are subject to the yoke of terrorists.

“The intensification of attacks by armed groups has continued to reduce the space for journalists to collect information and weaken the means of dissemination,” according to an RSF report published last year. Many community radio stations have been destroyed or closed in the face of terrorist pressure.

Even more serious, five journalists have been murdered in the region and half a dozen have gone missing since 2013.

Journalists in exile
It is therefore from abroad that part of the coverage of these three countries takes place. First by journalists from these countries now in exile, like Malick Konaté for Mali or Ahmed Barry for Burkina Faso, who continue to produce news from their countries.

Then, thanks to numerous sources on site which allow journalists to know what is happening in these countries. However, it is always more difficult, without access to the field, to cross-check certain information. to convey free, reliable and plural information, local media must organize themselves. For sensitive subjects, it is very complicated today. On security issues, for example, there is a real omerta.

The approach in processing information is mainly factual with a resumption in the media of official press releases from the authorities. Testimonies are rare and often anonymized to avoid any risks to sources and whistleblowers.

Self-censorship and arrests
Due to increased surveillance, investigations into armies and their auxiliaries, as well as into conflicts, are generally avoided by colleagues working in the central Sahel.

In Niger, two journalists are currently in detention. Idrissa Soumana Maiga, director of the newspaper L’Enquêteur, was also arrested on Thursday April 25. He has since been placed under arrest and imprisoned for “endangering national defense”.

He risks between five to ten years in prison after the publication of information from the newspaper Le Figaro reporting “alleged installation of listening equipment by Russian agents on official Nigerien buildings”. Garé Amadou, human rights defender and publishing director of Canard Déchaîné, visited him in prison on Wednesday May 1. On a daily basis, he takes precautions to avoid any risk of detention.

“It is certain that it is difficult to work as when we are in a democratic period, it is difficult to act as if nothing had happened. There is a certain self-censorship and there are certain subjects that some people avoid developing in their media for fear of being targeted by the junta, because whatever anyone says, a military regime is not a regime. democratic.

But some people try as best they can to do their job! There really are extremely courageous journalists who continue despite the risks involved,” he explains.

And added: “I process the information with complete freedom without often personalizing the articles because what is most dangerous is to personalize the articles, to make articles against people.”

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