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Outrage Builds Over Publisher's Arrest In Mali; Media Falls Silent

Reports from Mali indicate few, if any radio broadcasts went out today in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Newspapers didn't publish morning editions either - journalists are angry over last week's arrest of Boukary Daou, the publisher of The Republican newspaper.

Daou printed an open letter from a Malian army officer on March 6th that expressed outrage over new benefits awarded to Captain Amadou Sanogo. He was the leader of the junta last year that toppled Mali's president; the subsequent political vacuum allowed Islamist and Tuareg militants to seize even more land in northern Mali. Now in a new role, Sanogo is heading a Malian military reform group.

Professor Bruce Whitehouse of Lehigh University, who writes the blog, Bridges from Bamako, printed in The Republican:

"We have learned, as we are dying in the grand desert, that Captain Sanogo, for having mounted a coup d'etat, and put the country in its present situation, will receive a salary of four million [CFA francs, approx. US$8000 per month]...We do not understand this and demand of you, we other soldiers of the Malian army, a clear explanation. We want to know if mounting a coup d'etat to be compensated and recognized as a good soldier [sic]? We will never accept this."

The letter writer says army members will give the political leadership two weeks to respond or they'll lay down their weapons and refuse to fight.

Malian authorities say Daou was arrested for being irresponsible and unpatriotic in publishing the letter, according to the BBC. There's been no official word on his case from the Malian government, even though he should have been charged within two days of his arrest. The BBC reports says that may be because Mali is still under a state of emergency.

But the Malian press association reports interim Malian president Dioncoundra Traore, who came to power through Sanogo's coup, said the newspaper " somewhat exceeded the freedom of the press" in printing the letter. He said Daou was being held to learn more about it, possibly the identity of the writer. Traore said Daou would be released "if there is not something else behind what has been written".

Meanwhile, Daou's paper says it's under daily surveillance.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.