Following the departure of the French troops who were in Mali to combat armed Islamist militants in the north of the country, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Malian authorities to prioritise efforts to obtain the release of Olivier Dubois, a French journalist who will complete his 500th day as the hostage of an armed group on 21 August.
“The reporter Olivier Dubois is the only French hostage in the world,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “His loved ones have been subjected to an unbearable wait for 500 days, while every day counts as regards his survival. Now that the last French troops of the Barkhane operation left Mali on 15 August, the Malian authorities have an even greater responsibility to secure his release. We call on Col. Assimi Goïta, the interim president, and Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga to undertake to do everything possible to ensure that Olivier Dubois is released as soon as possible.
The most recent message from Dubois was on 14 March when his abductors, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), a coalition of armed groups affiliated to Al Qaeda, released a video in which he urged his supporters to keep campaigning on his behalf and urged the French government to seek his release.
This was only the second video of Dubois since his abduction on 8 April 2021 in the northeastern city of Gao. The first was released on 5 May 2021, a month after his abduction. Dubois was based in Mali as the correspondent of three French publications, Libération, Le Point and Jeune Afrique.
RSF has campaigned constantly for his release ever since his abduction. It began by setting up a unit to coordinate with his family, leading media outlets and journalists who have been hostages in the past. It organised big rallies and other events in support of Dubois. It projected a huge photo of Dubois on the side of the Pantheon in Paris, a symbol of freedom of truth.
RSF launched a “cities campaign” in which more than 20 French city halls and town halls displayed banners calling for his release, starting with the town hall of the 10th Arrondissement in Paris, which put its banner up on 16 July 2021. And RSF began a solidarity campaign with TV and radio stations on 8 February 2022.
To mark Dubois’ 500th day in captivity, his family asks those who want to support him to send a postcard to French President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace, saying: “Dear Mr President, when will the journalist Olivier Dubois return to France? 500 days… Let’s free Olivier Dubois.”
Mali is ranked 111th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index.