During Tuesday's coup in relatively stable Mali, a dearth of information from standard news outlets made Twitter the go-to source for information.
• A version of this post appeared on the blog "CPJ Blog." The views expressed are the author's own.
On Tuesday, while reporting on breaking news in Mali from studios in Atlanta, CNN Wire Newsdesk Editor Faith Karimi made an ominous observation that presaged the outcome of developments unfolding 5,000 miles away. "#Mali president @PresidenceMali has not tweeted in 10 hours after reports of gunfire and a coup attempt," she tweeted.
Earlier – as a mutiny by army soldiers over President Amadou Toumani Touré's handling of a conflict with separatist ethnic Tuareg rebels gained momentum in the Malian capital Bamako – the president's Twitter account had been quick to dismiss reports of trouble.
"Formal denial: the minister of defense is neither injured nor arrested. He is at his office where he is calmly going about his work day," read one tweet. Then came an admonishment to BBC reporter Yacouba Ouédraogo, who was tweeting in his personal capacity while reporting on the crisis. "Can you verify your source? There is no coup d'état in Mali. There is just a mutiny in the garrison of Kati." In another tweet, the person running the presidency's Twitter account offered a personal reassurance, downplaying the situation. "As proof, I am tweeting from the presidential palace. Some deserters and other military who do not want to go to the frontline have mutinied."
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