Radio is the most popular media in Mali. Since the liberalisation of airwaves in 1992, the number of private radios is exponentially increased. According to the 2019 Annuaire de Médias Mali (Malian Media Yearbook), there are 373 radios in the country. The government has one national channel and nine regional channels broadcasting in eight regions plus Bamako Moreover, the ministry of youth and citizenship has a network of 11 radios called “Voix des jeunes”. In addition, there are six stations called Mikado in the cities of Bamako, Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, Menaka and Kidal the, run by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).The region of Sikasso has the highest number of private radios (69), followed by Koulikoro (62), Kayes (57), Segou (48), Bamako (31), Timbuktu (26), Mopti (24), Gao (20) and Kidal (9).
Data published by the HAC on 8 May, 2019 show different numbers with 200 licenced radios, divided in 131 non-commercial and 69 commercial radios. Countrywise, the licensed radios are divided as follows: Sikasso (45), Koulikoro (43), Kayes (40), Bamako (30), Segou (25), Mopti (11), Timbuktu (3), Gao (3).
Besides commercial radios, there are also community radios and religious and confessional ones which broadcast preaches and religious debates. The large network of community radios is divided into several associations. The most important one is the Union des Radios et Télévisions Libres du Mali (Union of Free Radios and Televisions of Mali - URTEL) which gathers around 171 radios. There are three other networks: Kayira with 16 radios, “Voix de jeunes” network with 11 radios and TDM Network with 17 radios. These radios provide basic information in local languages and enjoy great trust from the communities in which they emit. Despite the good radio coverage, most stations do not comply with technical and even ethical standards. They employ non-professional staff and lack equipment and security measures as well as financial resources. There are also private radios which relay the content of foreign channels such as Radio France International (RFI), BBC Africa, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America (VOA).
The ongoing conflict and the situation of insecurity has a negative impact on radio broadcasting. In conflict areas, private stations and even the public radio are under pressure; the information they provide must not criticize the armed groups, which make threats of persecuting or kidnapping.