Following the past weekend’s circulation of a new undated video of Olivier Dubois, a French journalist held hostage in Mali for the past 11 months, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the French and Malian authorities to redouble efforts to obtain his release.
A reassuring proof of life, the video’s appearance on social media came just one week after RSF organised the projection of a huge photo of Dubois on to the side of the Pantheon in Paris as part of its campaign to draw attention to his plight. The most recent previous video of Dubois, who reported for Libération, Le Point and Jeune Afrique, was released on 5 May 2021.
In the new video, Dubois thanks his family, friends and supporters and urges the French government to do everything possible to obtain his release, while adding that, “I’m aware that my case is a small thing alongside the challenges and events that [the government] is facing.”
Although the video is not dated, this comment could be an allusion to the marked political tension between the French and Malian governments in recent months and France’s announcement that it is now withdrawing its troops from Mali.
“This message reaching us from Olivier is proof of life and a reason for hope for his family, loved ones and all his supporters who are tirelessly campaigning for him to recover his freedom,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We call on the French and Malian authorities to step up their efforts so that this journalist, who has been a captive in the desert for nearly a year, can be freed as soon as possible. It is essential that the very strong tension between Paris and Bamako does not affect the cooperation needed to get him released.”
Dubois is being held hostage in the Sahel by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), a coalition of armed groups that is the region’s leading Al Qaeda affiliate. He was kidnapped on 8 April 2021 when he went to the northeasten city of Gao with the aim of interviewing a senior member of this group.
RSF has been campaigning constantly ever since to draw attention to the plight of Dubois, who is the only French citizen currently been held hostage anywhere in the world. Last week, his portrait was projected on to the Pantheon in the presence of his family, friends and media outlets. Large banners in support of Dubois have been hung in 16 French cities including Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Rennes and Fort-de-France.
At RSF’s request, leading French radio and TV stations also broadcast a message of support for Dubois on 8 February, the day he completed his tenth month in captivity. Several demonstrations have been organised, including one on 8 June 2021 attended by ten French journalists who have all been hostages in the past.
Mali is ranked 99th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.