RSF helps RFI and France 24 get round Mali internet ban

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders announced Thursday the creation of “mirror” websites to allow RFI and France 24 to remain accessible online in Mali where the junta has banned the French broadcasters.

The radio and television channels announced on Wednesday that Mali’s ruling junta had definitively banned them after complaining about reports that the Sahel nation’s army had carried out abuses.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it had used its “Operation Collateral Freedom mirror site creation methods to ensure that their website content can be accessed from within Mali”.

RSF launched Operation Collateral Freedom in 2015. The setting up of “mirror sites” currently enables 47 websites in 24 countries, including Russia, “to circumvent censorship by their governments”.

RFI (Radio France Internationale) and France 24 cover African news extensively and have a strong following in the former French colony.

The broadcast ban comes after diplomatic relations between Mali and its former colonial power France plunged to their lowest point in years amid disputes over democracy and the alleged presence of Russia-linked paramilitaries in the country.

Mali expelled the French ambassador in January.

The junta in power in Bamako announced on March 17 the suspension of the broadcasting authorisation granted to RFI and France 24 in Mali.

They were accused of incitement to hatred, after publishing testimonies implicating the Malian army in abuses against civilians.

The French government had called Mali’s initial temporary suspension of the French media channels a grave attack on press freedom.

An impoverished nation of 21 million people, Mali has over the past decade been wracked by Islamist violence.

The under-equipped army has often been accused of committing abuses during the brutal conflict. The army-led interim government regularly rejects such accusations.

France Medias Monde, the state-owned parent company of RFI and France 24, said in a statement Wednesday that it “strongly contests the definitive decision to suspend” the two broadcasters.

According to locals in Bamako, the regular France 24 and RFI websites were not completely blocked on Thursday morning and could be loaded onto mobile phones, without necessarily having to go through the mirror sites created by RSF.

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