Mali: Release author detained for criticizing the government

On May 20, Etienne Fakaba Sissoko, a Malian economist and university professor, was convicted of defamation, damaging the state’s reputation, and spreading fake news. He was sentenced to two years in jail, with one year suspended, and fined XOF 3 million (about 6,700 CAD).

Sissoko, known for his criticism of the government, was arrested on March 25 after publishing a book that accused the Malian government’s public information campaign of spreading propaganda. His detention violates his right to freedom of expression. Etienne Fakaba Sissoko should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Here’s what you can do:

Write to the Minister of Justice and Human Rights urging him to:

  • Ensure the Malian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Étienne Fakaba Sissoko and quash his conviction.
  • Pending his release, ensure that he has access to his lawyers and family.

Write to:

Mr. Mahamadou Kassogué

Minister of Justice and Human rights

Cite administrative – batiment 12

BP 97 Bamako, Mali


Salutation: Dear Minister,

And copy:

Her Excellency Fatima MEITE


Embassy of the Republic of Mali

50 Goulburn Avenue

Ottawa, ON K1N 8C8

Tel: (613) 232-1501 Fax: (613) 232-7429


Shrinking civic space in Mali

In recent years, Mali has seen a significant decline in civic freedoms. This includes violations of freedom of expression, press freedom, the right to information, and freedom of association.

The country has been under military rule since 2021, following the overthrow of President Keita’s democratically elected government in 2020 and the subsequent removal of civilian transitional authorities in May 2021.

Threats to freedom of expression in Mali

Freedom of expression in Mali is threatened by Law N°2019-056, which punishes cybercrime. Articles 20 and 21 of this law impose severe penalties for “threats” or “insults” without clearly defining these offenses. The sentences range from six months to ten years in prison and fines from XOF 1 million to XOF 10 million.

Since 2022, opposition leaders, activists, and human rights defenders who criticize the transitional authorities have faced arbitrary arrests, detention, and prosecution.

The case of Étienne Fakaba Sissoko

On March 25, 2024, Étienne Fakaba Sissoko, a university professor, economist, activist, and author, was arrested at his home in Bamako by the Judicial Investigation Brigade. He was charged on March 27 with “harming the reputation of the state,” “defamation,” and “dissemination of false news” related to his book published in December 2023, which criticized Mali’s military authorities.

During his trial on May 6, Sissoko defended his work as based on factual evidence and expert analysis, but the prosecutor criticized the tone of the book. On May 20, he was sentenced to two years in prison, with one year suspended, and fined XOF 3 million (approximately 4,500 Euros).

Repeated violations of freedom in Mali: Additional cases

Étienne Fakaba Sissoko has been targeted by authorities before. On January 16, 2022, he was arrested for comments on TV regarding the impact of ECOWAS sanctions in Mali. He was released in June 2022 but forbidden from leaving the country. Similarly, human rights defender Aminata Dicko was forced into exile in January 2023 after criticizing the armed forces, and her subsequent summons for questioning.

Further restrictions were imposed on April 10, 2024, when the Council of Ministers suspended the activities of political parties and associations. The next day, Mali’s high authority for communication banned reporting and broadcasting activities of political parties or associations. Since February 2024, at least three organizations, including the Pupils and Students’ Association of Mali, have been dissolved.

Please take action as soon as possible until July 26, 2024! The UA will be duly updated should there be the need for further action.