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The French scientific journal Afrique Contemporaine is to be closed after censorship from the French Development Agency (AFD) which used to host the magazine since 2003.
The chief editor of the review Afrique Contemporaine Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos resigned from his position late on March and denounced the "censorship" of a dossier focused on the conflict dynamics in Mali by the governmental aid agency.
"The suspension sine die of the publication of the file on Mali, though validated by the scientific council of the magazine, seems to me to be of a political nature. Which is not tolerable," he said.
In its wake, four other researchers members of the scientific council resigned from their position. "I was invited to join Afrique Contemporaine to promote intellectual exchanges rigorously formulated around African issues, not to serve a political line. Hence my decision to leave the magazine," pointed out Yves Guichaoua, a teacher at the Brussels School of International Studies. "I did not think long to give my resignation," he added.
Nearly 200 academics signed a forum denouncing attempts to interfere in the publication of the magazine.
"I resign because our dossier on Mali is blocked", Marc-Antoine Perugia de Montclos, about the magazine #AfriqueContemporaine"
Articles evaluation took place from Aug. 2018 to Jan. 2019. "Some articles were rejected, others received criticism involving major revisions by the authors. This process is that of any scientific journal," explained Yvan Guichaoua. The problem is the political logic of the AFD that led to blocking the publication, according to the researcher.
The government-funded French Development Agency (AFD) made various critiques about the articles such as the "reputational and legal risk" the Agency could be exposed to.
Retrieved by the AFD in 2003, the journal Afrique Contemporaine became a development-oriented publication and a "soft power" communication tool for the institution. The journal was placed under the authority of the AFD, a public financial institution responsible for orchestrating development aid policy of France.
In a statement released on its website, the AFD said that "during the operational committee devoted to Mali issued a request to make minor amendments to certain texts and to introduce new scientific articles in order to have different viewpoints."
Thomas Melonio, in charge of the "Innovation, research and knowledge" department at the ADF explained that those "change requests have not been fully taken into account which led to the decision not to publish the articles." His position gives him the right to serve as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Afrique Contemporaine.
The Presidential Council for Africa (CPA), an organization implemented by Emmanuel Macron which is aimed to renew the relationship with the continent, is housed in the AFD premises. The CPA, led by a friend of the president and former ambassador of Benin in France, is also going through resignations and controversies.
For researchers, "censorship" questions the freedom of academic expression on sensitive topics for the French government.
"The Malian case has become a taboo in France and guarantees a lot of pressure from political and military power," said Bruno Charbonneau, the director of the Center Francopaix.
"If considerations of commonplaces become disturbing and justify those kinds of things, it is very alarming," said Vincent Foucher, a member of the journal.