RSF creates mirrors of RFI and France 24 websites for users in Mali
Just days after Mali’s media regulator announced that last month’s suspension of broadcasting by French public broadcasters Radio France Internationale (RFI) and France 24 was “definitive,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) can announce that it has used its Operation Collateral Freedom mirror site creation methods to ensure that their website content can be accessed from within Mali.
Mali’s military junta suspended over-the-air and satellite transmission of RFI and France 24 broadcasts on 17 March after they reported alleged human rights violations by the Malian army and Russian mercenaries.
But thanks to RSF’s creation of mirror sites, RFI’s content can now be accessed via this link and France 24’s by this link. The sites were created as part of Operation Collateral Freedom, which RSF launched in 2015 and which is currently enabling 47 websites in 24 countries (including eight sites in Russa) to circumvent censorship by their governments.
It was in a communiqué signed by Col. Abdoulaye Maïga, the minister for territorial administration and decentralisation, that the junta announced RFI and France 24’s suspension last month after RFI broadcast a report about summary executions and looting by Malian soldiers and Russian mercenaries working for the Wagner Group, whose presence in Mali has been widely documented since the start of the year.
The reporting by the French broadcasters was branded as “media hype” aimed at “destabilising the political transition” and “discrediting” the Malian army. RSF condemned the suspensions at the time as a blow to media independence and as an attack on Malians themselves. Mali’s media regulator, the High Authority for Communication (HAC), nonetheless announced on 25 April that the suspension was definitive.
“RFI and France 24 occupy a prominent place in the Malian media landscape,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Restoring online access for Malian Internet users to these leading media outlets, which produce quality, independent and uncompromising news reporting, sends a strong signal to all those whose right to news and information is flouted. We are happy to provide this service to RFI and France 24.”
RSF’s Operation Collateral Freedom is backed by an alliance of hackers, ICT specialists and engineers based in several European countries. Collateral Freedom is able to quickly restore access to a blocked website by creating an exact copy or “mirror” of the site and placing it on a content delivery network (CDN) that hosts many other services.
Authoritarian governments cannot block access to the CDN without suffering the collateral damage of blocking access to all of the other services provided by the CDN, which could have all sorts of negative impacts in their country.
RSF already restored access to the RFI site in Russia on 15 April, just a few hours after it was blocked on the Russian government’s orders. Operation Collateral Freedom has also unblocked other news sites in Russia, including Deutsche Welle and Meduza. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has been cracking down on freely reported and reliable news reporting that competes with its propaganda.
Mali is ranked 99th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.