Accountability systems

Media in Mali cover different educational, religious, cultural and entertainment information needs, also in local languages. The issue of their accountability in meeting these needs is often questionable, because of censorship and self-censorship. These are very common practices in the media landscape, both in the completely censored public media as well as in the private sector, where it has different forms and reasons. If censorship in public media is explained by the influence of public authorities, in private media it manifests through the influence of donors, with few outlets daring to disseminate information that goes against their financial partners for fear of losing market shares. Subscriptions are difficult to raise in Mali, and are mainly obtained through family, administrative, political and religious relationships. To publish or broadcast something which goes against the interest of the funder is considered suicidal. Generally, media professionals operate according to the will of their employers and the government. As a consequence, self-censorship is very strong among journalists, who also practice it for social reasons, being Mali an Islamic and traditional society which considers certain topics as taboo. For example, no journalist will accept to publish news on homosexuality or polyandry.

All public media are under the supervision of the Ministry of Communication, both for the content they produce and the economy they generate. The question of ethics is scarcely considered under this framework. The information disseminated is modelled on the interest of the authorities rather than on its beneficiaries or the impact it generates. The first episode of the discrediting of Malian media dates back to the events of 1992, when public media refused to provide information on the security situation in the country while foreign radios broadcasted on the actual events. The lack of media professionalism in the treatment of information, in the verification of sources and in the notion of balanced reporting makes rumours and misinformation to be very frequent especially on Malian airwaves and newspapers.