Olivier Dubois journalist held hostage for a year in Mali
On the first anniversary of French journalist Olivier Dubois’ abduction in Mali. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Malian and French authorities to step up their efforts to obtain his release, and to do everything possible to prevent him spending a second year as a hostage, cut off from the world.
What, if anything, does Olivier Dubois know about the war in Ukraine, the tension between France and Mali, and the French presidential election? How has Dubois, a news junkie like most journalists, been spending his days since his abduction in northeastern Mali on 8 April 2021?
Does Dubois still have access to the messages that are being sent by his family and friends and broadcast by Radio France Internationale, now that Mali has banned broadcasting by this French public radio station and the France 24 TV news channel? Most of the questions that Dubois’ family and friends have been asking for the past year remain unanswered.
Amid all the many unknowns about his fate and situation, some comfort was provided by a video released on 14 March by his abductors, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), a coalition of armed groups affiliated to Al Qaeda. In this video, Dubois urged his supporters to keep campaigning on his behalf and urged the French government to seek his release. It was the first video of Dubois since the one released on 5 May 2021, a month after his abduction. This journalist, who was based in Mali as the correspondent of three French publications, Libération, Le Point and Jeune Afrique, is the only French citizen currently been held hostage anywhere in the world.
“After a year of captivity for Olivier Dubois and an unbearable wait for his loved ones, the recently released proof of life gives us reason to hope,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It shows us that there is a way for him to recover his freedom. We call on the Malian and French authorities to step up their efforts to prevent this journalist from spending a second year as a hostage. His release is an issue that must transcend the current diplomatic tensions and political divisions. And it must be a priority for whoever is France’s president after this election.”
20 French cities campaigning
RSF has been campaigning tirelessly to draw attention to Dubois’ plight for the past year, and on 7 March, his portrait was projected on to the side of the Pantheon in Paris, a symbol of the ideals of freedom and truth.
Demonstrations in support of Dubois have been held in several French cities and many cities have themselves been enlisted into a campaign on his behalf. It began in Paris on 16 July 2021 when – as he completed his first 100 days in captivity – a large Dubois support banner was hung over the entrance to the town hall of the 10th arrondissement.
Since then, 20 other French cities have demonstrated their support for Dubois by means of a banner or poster. Today, Montpellier and Toulouse will join Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Avignon, Bayeux, Clermont-Ferrand, Lille, Nantes, Bordeaux, Rennes, Reims, Tours, Pau, Fort-de-France, La Rochelle, Aurillac and Périgueux.
Mali is ranked 99th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.