Testimony from a Malian Police Sergeant: the Role of Security Forces in ensuring the Safety of Journalists
The police sergeant Kaly Diakité is responsible for the communication cell of the General Directorate of the National Police of Mali. He holds a Master’s Degree in Law and a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and communication. Before becoming a policeman, he was a journalist and radio host at Bamakan, the first free radio of the country. He is also cofounder of the newspaper Le Flambeau, a weekly magazine of general information. He was a participant and then an assistant trainer in the trainings organized by UNESCO, the OIF, and EUCAP Sahel-Mali, in Mali for security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in the framework of the Implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
What do journalists do and how do they work? What are their expectations and what do security forces need to do in order to collaborate with them? The response to these questions taught me not only about the importance of journalists in our society, but also showed me how necessary it is to work jointly with the media. This exchange between journalists and security forces, on the subject of promoting press freedom in the framework of a training of security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists allowed us to create a dialogue with the journalists also part of the training so that they can safely and freely work to ensure the right to freedom of expression and access to information for citizens is promoted and preserved. All these responses and the platform for dialogue was ensured by the Canadian Police Commander Ian Lafrenière, a UNESCO expert, and by his colleague of EUCAP Sahel-Mali, Philipe Perez, who explained to the security forces the differences between propaganda, militancy, and journalism.
Mrs. Sasha Rubel Diamanka, Regional Advisor for Communication and Information at the Regional UNESCO Office for West Africa, presented UNESCO, its missions, and its domains of intervention regarding the promotion of press freedom and freedom of expression. She also shared the work of the Organization concerning the promotion of the safety of journalists through the UN Action Plan of for the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. Additionally, she presented the different judicial bodies such as the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.
Journalists and security forces need to learn to work together in the field. In the training, we asked the media to be more patient during investigations and they asked, on the contrary, more responsiveness from security forces during their verification of information. We reminded the journalists of the professional necessity of confidentiality in certain circumstances, and we asked them to treat certain subjects more analytically in order to avoid sensationalism.
We finally concluded that mutual respect is necessary, as well as a deeper understanding of issues related to defense and safety. The improvement of the relationship between security forces and the media in Mali requires honesty, transparency, availability, humility, listening and credibility.
Thanks to the June workshop in Bamako, I deepened my knowledge as it concerns the safety of journalists. I also learned more about the objectives of media professionals and I left the training enriched by all the exchanges with the participants and the trainers. Following this workshop, I became an assistant training for the second series of workshops in November. I also shared my experience of 6 years as a journalist and reporter, as well as a member of the Malian police. Currently responsible for the communication cell of the General Directorate of the National Police of Mali, I explained to participants how the cell works and what its mission is. Through this training, I was able to show security forces the importance of working jointly with the media.
The debates between the security forces and the journalists during the workshop were fruitful and I hope that this space for exchange will be the first of a series of trainings between the two. I support the Organizers in their efforts to encourage the Peacekeeping School and the training schools for security forces to adopt a curriculum for the training of police on the safety of journalists and press freedom within the national curricula.
The trainings, organized by UNESCO and the Peacekeeping School in Bamako, in partnership with EUCAP Sahel-Mali, the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection, and the International Organization of la Francophonie, were warmly welcomed and appreciated by the participants.
Sergeant Kaly Diakité
General Directorate of the National Police of Mali
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