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Sadou Yehia was a breeder in Léléhoy, a village in the Gourma of Mali, in this so-called three-border area, straddling Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, where violence against the civilian population is concentrated and the French armies are now focused. and Sahelian women in the fight against jihadist groups.
According to accounts by family members, he was abducted on February 5 from his village by armed Islamists before being shot three days later. Three weeks earlier, on January 13, France 24 had broadcast a report in which this man exposed the rackets of jihadists openly while his village was visited by a unit of the French operation “Barkhane”.
Has the channel, which is widely watched in Africa, put Sadou Yehia in danger of death as some people think? Is the anonymization of sources “Illusory” as retorted by the management of France 24 which had initially qualified as ” artificial “Any care about the identity of the interviewees because of” the overlapping of the terrorists in the local population from which they themselves come “?
The management of France 24 said “Deeply affected by this barbaric assassination”, but refuses to be designated “Like the culprits in an unbearable inversion of responsibilities”. The section of the National journalists union (SNJ) of France Médias Monde (France 24, RFI and MC Doualiya) however denounced Friday February 14 the “Emberlificotés explanations” of management and felt that ” the dissemination of the testimony uncovered [de Sadou Yehia] contravenes all basic ethical principles “.
In an interview at World Africa, Yvan Guichaoua, research professor at the Brussels School of International Studies at the University of Kent and specialist in the Sahel, stresses that if jihadists do not need France 24 to be informed, maximum precautions must be taken to avoid endanger those who testify against their actions.
Has France 24 been rash at best by broadcasting this report?
The lack of blurring is a mistake I never thought would happen. This is part of the basic precautions to take when doing this type of reporting. The justifications given later do not hold water. The anonymization of the respondent, the location of the interview, the blurring of faces are minimum precautions to be taken in the context of systematic violence against civilians in this area.
France 24 explained, however, that the question of anonymization did not arise due to the overlapping of terrorists among the populations …
There have been two sets of justification for France 24. There has been a first surrealist statement implying roughly that the terrorist groups and the communities are so intertwined that we cannot distinguish the good from the bad. The second press release is more nuanced and says that “Anonymization is illusory” to protect the interviewees. It is not up to France 24 to decide the level of risk to which populations are exposed.
In these situations where one navigates on sight in matters of safety, one takes the maximum precautions. One cannot make unilateral choices as to what the populations may or may not risk when questioned. What seems to me astounding in the justifications of the management of France 24 is that they present themselves as experts in the area capable of predicting the effects of anonymization. But it’s not up to them to decide. They only have to take the maximum precautions to avoid that the people interviewed are not more exposed than they are already.
Can we therefore make a direct link between the testimony of this man and his assassination?
If we reason in a distant and theoretical way without referring to this case, we know that the jihadists are informed of the comings and goings of “Barkhane”. They do not learn on television on France 24 that a patrol took place in an area in which they operate. They have their observers, their information network which teaches them the movements of French or Malian soldiers almost in real time.
On this basis, it is difficult to establish a cause and effect link between the assassination of this villager and the report from France 24. However, a journalist from Arrest sur images [site Web d’information sur les médias] was able to contact family members of the victim who claim that the terrorists came to pick him up specifically, pronounced his name which they could only have known in the report, even if they did not refer to chain.
It’s impossible for me to establish a cause and effect, but you still have to listen to the family. In addition, the day after the assassination, armed jihadist groups reportedly returned to this encampment to look for other protagonists in this report.
How to protect sources in such an environment?
The logic that must be applied is that used by researchers and humanitarian workers whose interventions must not exacerbate the vulnerability of populations. For journalists, blurring, anonymizing the place and people seems to me the minimum precautions.
In the world of academic research, ethics committees ask us to have informed consent documents signed. I don’t know if this is possible for journalists. But when France 24 assures that this person deliberately wished to testify to the atrocities of the jihadists, of course that he wanted to send a cry of alarm for his community, but he also did not want to be liquidated. It is up to journalists and editors to take responsibility for getting the message out without reprisal against the source of the message.
Finally, I found it quite scandalous in the France 24 communication to pose as the voice of the victims of barbarism in the area, as if they had the monopoly, while many local journalists work to transmit precise information. The argument that criticism plays into the hands of the jihadists and silences the populations is unbearably paternalism.