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Mali cuts off French TV and radio stations amid dispute

March 18, 2022 GMT

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s government has blocked two major French media outlets, accusing Radio France Internationale and the France24 television channel of broadcasting false information about alleged army abuses.

The move is the latest sign of escalating tensions between Mali’s government and its former colonizer that has spent the last nine years trying to help the West African country end an Islamic insurgency.

Relations have sharply deteriorated following military coups in 2020 and 2021 and France is now in the process of withdrawing its troops from the country.

The suspension of the French broadcast outlets would apply to both short-wave and FM frequencies and also would affect their digital platforms, Malian government spokesman Col. Abdoulaye Maiga said.

The suspension effectively halts the dominant sources of international news in Mali, a French-speaking country. Viewers who attempted to watch the channel on Friday received a “program blocked” message on their screens.

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France Medias Monde, the parent company of RFI and France 24, issued a statement sharply condemning the Malian government’s action.

“The group deplores this decision and strongly protests against unfounded accusations that seriously undermine the professionalism of its broadcasting stations,” it said.

The two French media outlets had reported on alleged abuses of civilians by Malian soldiers made by U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Human Rights Watch.

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Associated Press writer Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed.