My guest this month is Moussa Bolly, an educated journalist from the Information Technology Study Center (CESTI). He also has a master’s degree in Management of Sports Organizations (MEMOS). We are going to discover the journey of this mean journalist from Kadiolo in Mali. He makes us travel in his journalistic universe that of a man of rigor, deeply human and sporty who knew how to keep his feet on the ground in this profession that “leads to anything as long as you stay professional», he advises us.
Blog Queens of Africa: Moussa Bolly, thank you for your time available for this interview, introduce yourself to our readers.
Moussa Bolly: First of all I want to thank you, young sister, not only for giving me the floor, but also for your commitment with you”Blog Queens of Africa“. Without complacency you do a great job. I am a journalist by training (25th Promotion CESTI/UCAD from Dakar, Senegal). In addition to the CESTI diploma, I also obtained a master’s degree in Sports Organization Management (MEMOS) in France. I also I have benefited greatly from many training courses in many fields, especially in the field of film criticism.I also have a Master’s degree in Management of Sports Organizations (MEMOS) through a collaborative program between the Olympic Movement, the Claude Bernard University of Lyon (France) and the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (INSEP) from Paris, France.
I’m in my fifties. I am married and have 4 biological children and many adopted children. I am passionate about sports, music and nature. I also read a lot…
When did your passion for the press start? Who were your idols?
My passion for journalism is linked to that of football. It was at the time of the radio and I hardly ever missed the rebroadcast of competitions on Radio-Mali, Radio-Côte d’Ivoire, Africa N°1… And I hid to comment on competitions imaginary tricks people believe there was a game on the radio. My idols were Demba Coulibaly, Jean-Louis Fara Touré, Boubacar Kanté, Ronny Mba Minko, Gassimou Sylla… I loved reading so much that I couldn’t miss a newspaper, even if it was thrown in a garbage dump… So I discovered I the written press with the “Kouakou”, “Calao” that I bought on Thursday, the day of the weekly Kadiolo fair. I produced my first article when I was in 10th Letters at the Lycée regional de Sikasso. It was titled: The Unwed Mothers! A text that a literature teacher reads in almost all high school literary classes… Today I try to follow in the footsteps of Gaoussou Drabo, Alain Agboton (peace be upon him), Mamadou Koumé, Seydou Sissouma…
Tell us about your beginnings…
After the Bac (LLT) in 1991, I was referred to the Public Administration (AP) Section of the National School of Administration of Bamako (ENA). My dream was to become a diplomat or journalist. Unfortunately, the ENA does not train in journalism. I had therefore started saving on my scholarship to be able to follow distance learning through EDUCATEL. But 1994 saw the White Year after years of disruption caused by school and college strikes. I took the opportunity to try my luck in the entrance exam for CESTI and thank goodness I was admitted. I consider myself privileged because the newspaper “Les Echos” (weekly then daily) gave me the opportunity to write in the newspaper from my first day of internship.
Every year during my vacation I did an internship at “Les Echos” for a month before I went to visit my family in Kadiolo. And I had the privilege of meeting wonderful people like the late Aboubacar Salif Diarrah, Tiégoum Boubèye Maïga, Alexis Kalambry, Abdoul Majid Thiam, Sounkalo Togola… who protected and guided me. So I started writing in my first year at CESTI. In the 3rd year, the late Alain Agboton offered us internships in “Le Matin” in Dakar, which had just been launched by the printer Baba Tandia… So I combined my studies with the internship in this newspaper.
I also had the opportunity to do my official final internship with the national daily newspaper of Senegal, “Le Soleil”, exactly at the foreign bureau headed by Seydou Sissouma at the time. After my defense and the naming of the promotion, I returned to Mali despite numerous proposals made in Senegal. I signed up with Jamana. Officially I was recruited to animate the youth magazine “Grin-Grin”, but I mainly wrote for “Les Echos”. Initially I specialized in investigations (thematic files) with the encouragement of Dean Tiégoum Boubèye Maïga who did not hesitate to put his hand in his pocket for my travel expenses.
What focus do you place on this period?
There weren’t many newspapers then. And there was real training work on the editorial boards. I learned a lot from Aboubacar Salif Diarrah, Tiégoum Boubèye Maïga, Alexis Kalambry, Abdoul Majid Thiam, Sounkalo Togola, Oussouf Diagola and even from the General Manager (Hamidou Konaté) who often participated in our editorial conferences. The profession was a real priesthood at the time and you had to give anything to write in a newspaper.
And the work was very tedious because there were no laptops, telephones and the internet in Mali was still in its infancy. You had to write by hand before the data entry agent did. So I knew the fear of the blank sheet, articles that we kept taking back because we weren’t happy with what we wrote. Today, NTCIs have made things so much easier that I often find it difficult to take notes in a notebook or write by hand on a white sheet.
What are the media that flagged you on this journey?
Difficult to answer this question because I worked and still work with many bodies and news agencies, each with their own individuality. Each of these media has marked me in its own way. And above all that at the beginning of his career we do not have the same or even the same feeling as with a certain maturity. I could enjoy respect and attention at all levels.
What were your difficulties as a journalist at that time?
I cannot name difficulties as such because they were quite trials for me to overcome on the path of formation. In the beginning, the lack of means of transport was very difficult for me. I moved in the “Duruni” and “Sotrama” (public transport). And often we could make long journeys between a stop and the meeting place. Not to mention we wrote by hand. You often had to start all over again if you weren’t satisfied… And imagine having to write two or three articles, as I often did.
You are also a CESTIEN, what memories do you have of this prestigious journalism training school in Senegal?
A prestigious school that has been able to adapt at all levels to the evolution of the profession. I am proud to have been trained at CESTI by professors who have done their best to make me what I am today.
What does journalism mean to you?
A passion ! A weapon to help my country, to defend noble causes, such as the re-evaluation of Malian or even African culture; the reconquest of African identity; women’s empowerment; environmental protection… I worked at the Ministry of Youth and Sports from 2007 to 2014 as a Mission-Communication Officer. And since then I have regularly received proposals for new responsibilities. But until then, I’ve turned down all his offers because it just makes me feel better with my pen. And I usually say that I feel most useful to my country with my pen.
What has changed in the practice of journalism from your time to now?
Many things. The profession is in decline in Mali as it is practiced by everyone today. Ethics and deontology are sacrificed daily for profit, money. Young people no longer train because they come to the press for the financial and material benefits. Our generation, like the previous one, has embraced this profession out of passion. Nowadays more and more people become a journalist out of interest.
What are your main differences?
The best award is the recognition and respect from his colleagues, from readers. When respectable people call you to salute your “courage” and your “professionalism”, I think it’s worth all the medals. That said, I have won many awards for “Best Journalist”, “Best Article”… and I have received many trophies and diplomas of recognition from the start of my career to this day. But honestly, I’m not impressed with the material and financial recognition. And contrary to popular belief, I have seldom been free from want. The proof is that I always live tight in rental. Respect and esteem are the best rewards that I have always strived for.
-How do you see journalism in the age of social networks, fake news and mobile journalism?
This is a very tough competitive environment for true professionals. With these new technologies, everyone improvises as a journalist. We balance everything without any overlap. And because people like the sensational, it is difficult to compete if you want to remain a good journalist, that is, between ethics and deontology.
Nevertheless, technological development also offers professionals undeniable advantages, especially in terms of professional equipment, saving time and money, access to information, etc. For example, social networks allow to have different opinions (divergent or convergent) on a topical issue, a sporting result, a cultural event, etc.
In terms of equipment, the days of dictaphones are almost over. And the technicians are no longer condemned to “sniff” their shoulders to carry heavy nagras or pound cameras all day long. Everything is miniaturized. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have regularly conducted my interviews by phone, via Messenger or WhatsApp… So many advantages (the list is far from exhaustive) that have a positive effect on the quality of productions, especially in radio and television.
Advice is only valuable if the person to whom it is given listens carefully. I usually tell my young interns that training is the best weapon for getting the most out of a profession. If you want to get better, you have to agree to train. And for a journalist, that training never ends, especially as technology and our socio-economic environment are evolving at lightning speed. Journalists live and work in very difficult financial circumstances because the editorial offices here in Mali do not have enough resources to pay them better and offer them the best working conditions. This makes the temptation to deviate strong. It’s hard not to be manipulated. But I tell young people that anyone who tries to manipulate you has no respect for you. He’s just trying to use you. And he will never trust you, for he will always say to himself: If I manage to manipulate him, those who give him more than I can turn him against me too!
What advice do you give to young journalists?
As Justin Janin said, “Journalism leads to anything, provided you get out”! I would add: provided you are also a great professional!
Oumou Seydou Traore