Mar. 12 (GIN) – Mali’s 40 newspapers were off the stands this week and 16 private FM radio stations were silent or only playing music in response to a government crackdown on media reporting growing discontent among troops fighting Islamist militants in the North.

A soldier’s letter, published by the Le Republicain newspaper, said the armed forces lacked equipment and rations while military top brass were living in comfort in the capital, Bamako.

Le Republicain editor’s Boukary Daou was arrested last Wednesday and has yet to be charged.

Communications Minister Manga Dembele said Mr Daou acted irresponsibly and unpatriotically by publishing the soldiers’ open letter to the president, but there has been no official word from the authorities about the case.

Also silenced was Radio Guintan, a station for women, which had all its transmitter towers destroyed.

“There are people in authority who believe that if we’re stopped from denouncing what they’re up to, then they’ll get away with it,” Radio Guintan’s Ramata Dia told the BBC.

Global media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Mr Daou’s arrest was “another example of Malian security agents acting outside the law in trying to harass journalists”.

Meanwhile, the UN’s human rights body said on Tuesday that preliminary investigations show Malian soldiers have been carrying out retaliatory attacks on ethnic groups perceived to have supported rebel groups.

“Thousands have reportedly fled out of fear of reprisal by the Malian army,” the deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, was quoted to say.