SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 21, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Bamako

Region & Country:Western Africa | Mali

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 21, 2024, Étienne Fakaba Sissoko, an economist and professor at the University of Bamako, was sentenced to two years in prison for criticizing Mali’s military junta in his new book.

In 2023, Sissoko published a book, Propaganda, Agitation and Harassment, Government Communication During the Transition in Mali, detailing the government’s use of propaganda and false information to influence public opinion.

Sissoko was convicted of “harming the reputation of the state,” “defamation” and “dissemination of false news disturbing the public peace,” carrying a two year sentence, with one year deferred. The court also fined him three million CFA francs (about $4,900 US dollars). Sissoko’s lawyer, Ibrahim Marhouf Sacko, plans to appeal the conviction.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the imprisonment of a scholar in apparent retaliation for his scholarly activity. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arbitrary detentions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.