Journalist Beaten, Forced to Drink Own Urine After Social Media Post

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In this file photo, a man reads a newspaper in Bamako, Mali, on August 16, 2018. The country scores poorly in press freedom, and new reports have emerged of a journalist being beaten and humiliated by a government minister. ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

A journalist in Mali has been assaulted and humiliated by officials after criticizing the government, according to a global press freedom watchdog.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said El Hadji Hamidou Touré—the editor of news website Malimedias.com—was abused at the headquarters of Mali's Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR) in the capital Bamako last week after criticizing the body's work.

Touré said he was called to see the CVJR's secretary-general, army Colonel Abdoulaye Makalou, on November 29 after maligning the commission's efforts in a Facebook post. But when he arrived in Makalou's office, the journalist said he was attacked.

The colonel's bodyguards reportedly struck Touré several times and even forced him to drink his own urine. "Before releasing me, the colonel also threatened to kill me if I said anything to anyone about what had happened," Touré added. Regardless, he quickly reported the incident to Mali's gendarmerie.

RSF said it had acquired telephone records that showed Makalou's insistence that the meeting take place in his office, despite Touré's requests they meet in public due to safety concerns. But when the journalist's car broke down, Malakou came to pick him up and convinced Touré to come to his office.

The journalist agreed on the condition that his cousin could accompany him. While Touré was being beaten later, his cousin was kept in an adjoining room. He told RSF he heard his relative "shout for help" and that when Touré came out of Makalou's office, it was evident he had been "badly beaten."

Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk, said the body strongly condemns "this mistreatment of the editor of Malimedias, which is unacceptable, and we call on the authorities to ensure that an independent investigation is carried out and that this journalist's safety is guaranteed."

Makalou, who resigned from his position Monday amid the allegations, denied any wrongdoing. According to maliactu.net, Makalou blamed inaccurate media reports for the furore and suggested there existed no evidence against him.

The former secretary general—who previously studied journalism in Senegal—told RSF he had a "clear conscience" because Touré suffered "no act of aggression." Asked why he resigned, he said he did not want "this affair to damage the commission's reputation."

Mali was ranked 115th out of 180 countries in the RSF 2018 World Press Freedom Index, a one-place improvement on 2017. The index authors note, "Attacks on journalists have declined but press freedom is still fragile."

The ranking considered the unsolved murder of two French radio journalists in November 2013, and added that the country remains dangerous for media workers due to the activity of armed militant groups.

RSF warned that authorities "harass the media over their coverage of security issues, and any criticism of the army can lead to arrest and a charge of 'contravening standards and undermining troop morale.'"

Journalist Beaten, Forced to Drink Own Urine After Social Media Post | World