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Mali26 September 2006

Six radio station staff freed on completing sentences

Radio Kayira’s six staff members were released yesterday on completing their one-month prison sentences.

29.08.06 - Six radio station staff sentenced to one month in prison with no parole for broadcasting without a licence

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the disproportionate verdict carried out against six Radio Kayira staff in Niono (Centre), who were arrested on 23 and 24 August 2006, after police shut down the station because it was operating without a licence.

"The six Radio Kayira staff have already spent one week in prison over an administrative dispute that is politically tainted. Even if the station was contravening the law, this situation has already gone too far by detaining these media professionals in jail. The courts must rule for their provisional release before sealing a regrettable and unusual episode in Mali," declared Reporters Without Borders.

Radio Kayira staff, including Amadou Nanco Marikon, managing director in Koutiala, southern Mali, Koutiala station hosts Mohamed Diakité and Magan Sidy, and station coordinator Boubacar Diarra, were arrested on 23 August when the police, under the order of the prefecture, closed the Kayira radio network antenna in Niono, which had been broadcasting without a licence. Radio Kayira 1 hosts from Bamako, Gaoussou Goita and Yaya Coulibaly, were arrested on 24 August.

Placed in detention and charged with "opposition to the authority of the State", they were sentenced on 29 August to one month in prison with no parole and a fine of 50,000 CFA Francs (approx. 76 euros). The applications made by the president of the Union of Free Radio and Television of Mali (Union des radios et télévisions libres du Mali, URTEL), Yaya Sangaré, to permit the Radio Kayira staff to go free, were unsuccessful. Their lawyer intends to appeal the verdict.

The Radio Kayira network belongs to African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence (Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l’indépendance, SADI), a political party represented in government. A licence application for the Niono antenna had been made in September 2005. On 24 April, the radio station began to broadcast without having received a response from the authorities. This resulted in an "arm wrestle" with the prefecture, which began with the 17 May closure of the station. Given that he did not receive a response regarding the licence application, the director of the Kayira communication network, Oumar Mariko, who is also secretary general of SADI, believed he could begin broadcasting again. According to him, by law, the authorities should have taken no more than 15 days to respond to the application.

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