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Mali18 June 2007

Journalist and teacher imprisoned for insulting president in essay subject

Reporters Without Borders appealed today to Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré to intercede to obtain the release of Seydina Oumar Diarra, a journalist with the privately-owned daily Info-Matin, and Bassirou Kassim Minta, a literature teacher in a Bamako secondary school, who have been detained since 14 June on a charge of insulting the president.

The two men were arrested on the state prosecutor’s orders because of a 1 June article by Diarra, headlined “Lycée Nanaïssa Santara: the president’s mistress,” about a humorous essay subject that Minta gave his final-year literature students - the story of a “female student and economic prostitute” who became pregnant by a fictitious president and fought for her child to be recognised.

“The result of a prosecutor’s absurd zeal, these two arrests are worthy of another age and are clearly an abuse of authority,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The president should show that Malian democracy allows teachers and journalists to be free with humour and even insolence. Mali’s political stability in recent years has been widely hailed, partly because press freedom violations had ended and the media had been peacefully incorporated into the country’s democratic development. This case sullies this image and shows that press freedom is still fragile.”

Detained in the capital’s main prison, Diarra and Minta are due to appear before a criminal court on 26 June.

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