Touche pas à ma Constitution campaign a success: plans to revise constitution suspended

As previously reported by the Monitor, controversial plans to revise Mali's constitution, with a referendum initially planned for early July, led to protests and threats and intimidation against activists and journalists. On 18th August 2017, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta suspended his plans to revise the country's constitution, a move viewed as a victory for civil society and many citizens, and especially for the civic platform An Tè A Ba Na -Touche pas à ma Constitution (Don't Touch My Constitution), which was originally created to oppose the government's planned revisions. 

Expression

On 26th July 2017, District Court of commune IV of Bamako sentenced in absentia Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, a radio columnist for Radio Maliba FM, also known as 'Ras Bath', to a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 CFA (182 USD) on charges of "incitement of disobedience of troops", under article 35 of law 00-046 AN RM from 7th July 2000, which regulates the press. The president secretary general of Radio Maliba FM, Bandjougou Tounkara, was found complicit in the case and given a six-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 CFA. 

The charges stem from broadcasting the radio programme "Carte sur Table" after a terrorist attack took place at a guard post in the north of the country on 3rd August 2015, during which Bathily denounced the Ministry of Defense as dysfunctional, referenced a case of embezzlement in the military and called for the Minister's resignation. Bathily is also an activist against the proposed controversial revisions of the constitution that led to several protests in the country, and was a member of the platform An Tè A Ba Na till 23rd August. The court did not issue an arrest warrant; therefore, Bathily is planning to appeal his sentence. 

In a separate incident, blogger and YouTube activist Madou Kanté was shot at on the night of 24th July by unidentified assailants, in what is being considered an assassination attempt. The activists has previously received death threats and has been vocal against the constitutional revisions. Salif Diarrah, a journalist for the online newspaper, MaliActu, also received death threats on the same night, prompting APPEL Mali (Association des professionnels de Presse en Ligne au Mali) to issue a press statement condemning the threats and attempted murder. 

Association

Amnesty International noted threats against and acts of intimidation towards activists and dissidents in Mali, especially those who have spoken out against the draft revision of the constitution. Examples of such cases reported by Amnesty are as follows:

  • On 13th July, the spokesperson of a religious community threatened dissident voices using social networks to speak out against leaders.
  • On 19th July, Malick Konaté from the movement Trop c'est trop was assaulted in front of the offices of the public television station, supposedly by pro-government people, during a peaceful assembly to denounce the partiality of public television. Trop c'est trop also campaigned against the revision of the constitution. 
  • Blogger and YouTube activist Madou Kanté was shot at on the night of 24th July. Kanté has been vocal against the government changing the constitution (as described above).
  • Salif Diarrah, a journalist for MaliActu, received death threats on 24th July (as described above). 

Peaceful Assembly

After an assassination attempt against blogger and YouTube activist Madou Kanté, a peaceful protest organised by approximately 100 activists took place on 25th July 2017, during which they condemned the ongoing threats and intimidation faced by activists, especially those involved in the campaign against revising the constitution.