Unidentified gunmen killed one journalist and abducted two other journalists earlier this month in Mali, the International Press Institute said Wednesday, underscoring the threats facing the media in the region.
Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla, a journalist with community radio Naata, was driving in northern Mali on November 7 along with Radio Coton FM director Saleck Ag Jiddou and Radio Coton FM host Moustapha Kone when they saw gunmen ahead on the road, according to the International Press Institute, or IPI.
When they tried to turn around, the unidentified gunmen fired on the car, killing Djibrilla, said Reporters Without Borders, or RSF. The gunmen then abducted Jiddou and Kone.
It is unclear whether the journalists were targeted over their work.
The gunmen asked their families to pay nearly $5,000 in ransom for each journalist, according to RSF.
"The latest events in Mali are extremely alarming," Sadibou Marong, director of RSF's sub-Saharan Africa bureau, said in a statement. "We call on the Malian authorities to do everything possible to find them and to arrest those responsible for Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla's murder."
Harouna Attino, a journalist with community radio Alafia, was also in the car and was wounded in the assault but is now safe, press freedom groups said without providing further details.
"The deteriorating press freedom situation in Mali is deeply alarming, and we call on the authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists and uphold media freedom, which remains critical even in times of insurgency," Nompilo Simanje, who works on Africa at the IPI, said in a statement.
Mali's Washington Embassy did not immediately reply to VOA's email requesting comment.
Bandiougou Dante, president of the Mali Press House, called on authorities to act "so that the authors, co-authors, accomplices and instigators answer for their actions and are brought to justice," according to RSF.
French journalist Olivier Dubois was released in March 2023 after spending nearly two years held captive by an armed group affiliated with al-Qaida in the Sahel. The freelance reporter was abducted in April 2021 in northeastern Mali after going there to interview the leader of an armed group.
Despite Dubois' release, local and foreign journalists say press freedoms continue to deteriorate in the region, as VOA reported in April.
Political instability - including two military coups between 2020 and 2021 - and terrorism only make it harder for journalists to do their jobs safely, according to reports.
"Local journalists are now the last ramparts against the total abandonment of the right to information in this northern part of the Sahel, which is prey to the terror of various armed groups and the responses from regular armies," Marong said.