A municipal court in the capital, Bamako, sentenced Boubacar Yalcouyé, the editor of the newspaper Le Pays, to six months in prison (two of them suspended) on a charge of defaming the supreme court’s judges by reporting that they were paid nearly 1.4 million euros to uphold the validity of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s reelection last August.
Yalcouyé has not so far been detained in connection with this case and the court did not issue a detention order today. His lawyers confirmed to RSF that they will appeal against his conviction and sentence.
“Without taking a position on the substance of this article, we think it is wrong to jail a journalist for a press offence,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “This sentence is completely disproportionate, especially as there are other ways, such as a complaint to the regulatory body, to establish whether this article was defamatory. The extreme severity of this sentence highlights the urgency of passing a law that finally decriminalizes press offences, as promised by the Malian government.”
The press law that Mali adopted in July 2000 is extremely punitive, providing for many prisons sentences and heavy fines. Defamation is punishable by between 11 days and 12 months in prison.
Mali is ranked 115th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.