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Africa

Mali: "If Mali becomes another Somalia the entire region will be affected"

The media situation in Mali following the military coup was the focus of the fifth expert round organized by DW Akademie and the ARD Capital Studio, and held in Berlin.

"Much has to happen before a country like Mali gets international press coverage," said Lamine Doumbia from Mali to DW host, Meggin Leigh. And much has happened: the Mali government was toppled in a military coup in March prior to the presidential elections. Once a model of democracy, Mali has become a fragile state and Tuareg rebels and primarily foreign radical Islamists are fighting to gain power and influence in the country's north.

Doumbia is a doctoral candidate at the Bayreuth University. Speaking to 60 guests in the packed conference room he said, "There have been rebel insurgencies in the past but this time much more is at stake - the country's sovereignty."

Fotos für die Seiten der DW Akademie. Beschreibung: Expertengespräch der Reihe Medien International zum Thema Mali am 3. August 2012 in Berlin. Eingeladen hatten dazu DW Akademie und das ARD Hauptstadtstudio. Auf dem Podium saßen Christine Harjes, Lamine Doumbia, Marc Dugge und Gunnar Rechenburg, moderiert wurde die Diskussion von Meggin Leigh. Datum: August 2012 Fotograf: Boris Trenkel Meggin Leigh, Lamine Doumbia, Mali, Medien International, ARD Hauptstadtstudio

DW host Meggin Leigh and doctoral candidate Lamine Doumbia

Press freedoms are also being threatened, and not just in the country's north, said journalist Gunnar Rechenburg who travelled to Mali in June. He had heard reports that journalists in the country’s capital, Bamako, and in southern Mali had been intimated and attacked by government soldiers. "But the situation in the country's north is even more dramatic," he said. "With sharia now being imposed, radio stations are no longer allowed to play music and have to broadcast Islamic slogans." Staff at Radio Karoual in Mopti - a DW Akademie partner station located on the border to northern Mali - had confirmed this.

Christine Hajes, DW Akademie coordinator for West Africa, experienced the putsch first-hand while in Bamako. "We had to break off our workshop on election reporting," said the seasoned trainer, adding that radio was the main source of information in Mali. Asked about possibilities for resolving the conflict, Harjes said a military solution offered few prospects, especially given that Islamists in the north were heavily armed.

Radio journalist Marc Dugge, an editor at Frankfurt's HR-info radio and until April 2012 an ARD correspondent in Rabat, Morocco, agreed. "The interim government in Bamako has to bring the conflicting parties together so that Mali doesn't become another Somalia." Otherwise, he said, drug and arms smuggling in West Africa, and extending to Libya in the north and Somalia in the east, would further flourish.

The expert round on the media situation in Mali was part of the 'Medien International' series, jointly organized by DW Akademie and the ARD Capital Studio in Berlin.