Saturday, September 08, 2012

Curioser and Curioser.
We checked the news online before leaving Mopti, and found an article by Associated Press:
The article is written by RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, a woman who contacted me recently to ask if she might talk to me now and then for information about Mali. She is a journalist with Associated Press and stationed in Dakar.She has stringers in Bamako to supply her with news.

When I read the article, I mentioned to Keita that I was surprised: it stated that there had been no mention on Malian TV about Diankounda Traore’s formal demand of military assistance to the Ecowas. I thought Keita had said that it had been on TV? ‘Yes’, said Keita, the letter was read out in the news report of the 4th of September.' 'Ok,' I said, and wrote a message to Ms Callimachi, mentioning that she had made a mistake. This information had indeed been passed on Malian TV.

A bizarre SMS correspondence followed, continuing all day which went something like this:

Ms. Callimachi: Our correspondent watched ORTM (Malian state channel) every night and has not seen it. Secondly presidency has refused to confirm.

Sophie: (maddeningly I have lost the exact correspondence- not enough space on my phone! But I wrote something like the following): I did not see it myself, but my husband did. So did Levy Dougnon, a journalist with les Echos du Mali. I will send you his number and you can call him to verify.

Ms. Callimachi:’Have asked Baba (the stringer) in Bamako to cal DG of state television. Will get back to you. But I find it very improbable bc my stringer watches the news every night and every night he called to say it has not run which is why we ran out story. Secondly a gov.communique needs to be issued from the presidence issued by diarra and diarra told us he had nothing to say about the demand, that he has not seen it and if he had he would have sent it out for diffusion. Sanogo’s own people told me they had heard about it in Kati from international media quoting France.

Sophie:( at this stage I was frantically calling around to anyone credible that I know, asking if they had seen the news item. Everyone said they had, or if they had not seen it personally they had heard about it,and some had heard it on the radio.)

Ms. Callimachi: Hey Sophie: below is msg from Baba my stringer. He just confirmed with dg of state TV that it has not run. Feel free to call him. Number is below. I am having lunch with friend so cannot call him but I trust Baba. ‘le directeur de la tele m’a dit que ca n’a pas ete diffuse. Voici son no : xxxxxxx : Youssouf Toure.

Sophie (continues to find witnesses who are willing to claim that they saw it. Sending the messages and phone numbers to Ms. Callimachi.

Ms. Callimachi: Hi Sophie, if director general of ortm says it was not broadcast then it was not broadcast. I don’t know what these other people are seeing but it’s possible they were watching another channel or whatnot.’

Sophie: ‘there is only one ortm news channel broadcasting the evening news to the Malian nation. There is no confusion. You give perhaps too much credence to your source? I will continue to send you phone numbers of witnesses who saw the item. Please call Samake.’
(a number of witnesses’ telephone numbers are sent to Ms. Callimachi: Among these are Monsignor Fongoro, the Bishop of Mopti and Diabi, the present Director of the Palais de la Culture in Bamako and former counsel to the Minister of Culture. These two both affirmed to me that they had seen the item.)

Ms. Callimachi: wants me to send my email address to her. I comply, and also send her the following email:

Dear Rukmini,
This is the most bizarre ting I have witnessed for a long time.
I understand perfectly why you should think that if the director of the Malian television says that the item was not shown, he must be right. The fact is unfortunately that both he and your stringer are lying.
Perhaps the real story to find out here is why are they lying?
I have now spoken to up to 25 people who have seen with their own eyes the new item being passed - the rest - another ten or so- have heard about it , although they didn't see it themselves.
If they are sending you a video to show the content and it is not there, they have cut it out.
There is a place to see newsitems- it is called My friend Samake told me about it. I cannot access it here because of bad connection, but Samake said he was looking at it only yesterday and saw the item then and other ones related to it. If it is not there now, they have cut it out.
My friend the journalist Levy knows Youssouf Toure (the drector of Malian TV)- they are even friends he said. So he called him of course, and was absolutely flabbergasted to be told by Toure that the item had not been shown! He said to his friend: are you insulting my intelligence? How dare you lie in my face?
But he got nowhere.
Now, you might say that I am mad or that I am trying to manipulate something, and you might want to ignore this. But if you do, it is not only me you ignore- that is not such a big deal- but you ignore the whole Malian people, and allow yourself to be manipulated for some political ends. I have long suspected that the stringers and various Malian journalists working with Reuters or AP etc are in some- not all of course- cases bought and telling the foreign journalists what their patrons want them to hear.
Are you really interested in what is going on?
Then look a little further than your stringer, and even, however improbable it sounds, the tv chief himself, who may also be pulled by some powerful incentive.
I will certainly be putting this on my blog.

I continued to send her several more witnesses’ phone numbers. Then suddenly I received a text from her. Two of my sources had betrayed me. She had called Diabi, the high official, the mandarin who had assured me he had seen the item. Instead of affirming this, he told her her could not confirm it! The second person who betrayed me, (whose name I cannot mention, because if I do, there is no option but to leave here and I am not sure yet that I am ready to do so), told her that he had ‘heard a sentence about it' on the Monday but did not affirm that he had seen it!

Finally the lady wrote me a text saying that since the two witnesses she had called had failed to convince her, since she has watched Tuesday's broadcast and not found anything, and since she has once more called the TV director who has reconfirmed the item was not passed, she was done. Now, frankly, I don't really find that particularly inspired as investigative journalism: if she wants to check the possible veracity of my accusations it is hardly worth asking the TV director the same question once more! He is not likely to have changed his story! And to watch the tape of the TV broadcast proves nothing either: my suggestion is that it had been cut! Perhaps she could have invested her telephone credit in a better way? She could have telephone all the witnesses perhaps?

Now, what does this all mean, really? Why did the Malian TV director lie? Amede thinks it is because the Malian TV ORTM has been controlled by Sanogo’s team since the coup. Sanogo and his team does not want military intervention by foreign troops in Mali. They have exercised a considerable amount of influence here and still do. I have always been speaking out in their favour, mostly in the face of international opinion. Now it seems that suddenly things are reversed: this news item, which did not please Sanogo’s team, suddenly disappeared from the agenda, erased from history. This is possibly what has happened. My sources who betrayed me are worried about their positions- if the powers that be say that something didn’t happen it didn’t, even if it did, if you see what I mean...? As for me I am profoundly allergic to cowardice and lies.

At the end of this analysis, one has to note that Associated Press was the only news agency to report this. Did they perhaps misinterpret the situation?

What has happened since shows that Dionkouda and Diarra and the Minister of Defense are united in their demand for assistance, and this shows the fact that they are NOT swayed by Sanogo. But somehow there are elements here who will do anything in their power to sow discord and confusion- and perhaps Associated Press would do well not to listen? Perhaps it would be a good idea to come here and see for yourself? Perhaps the journalists would do well to speak to normal people who live in Mali, and not just their stringers?


Blogger David said...

What a yarn! I can see you fuming with the injustice of it all - I so love your unyielding pursuit of the truth, and the way you have told it here, not giving a dam(n) if everyone follows it to the bitter end (I found it gripping, by the way).


10:05 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you David.
The item passed last night again on the Malian TV, as if it had never been shown before!

10:54 AM  

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