Freedom of the Press 2010 - Madagascar
|Publication Date||30 September 2010|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - Madagascar, 30 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca44d8d16.html [accessed 25 January 2015]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 17
Political Environment: 29
Economic Environment: 15
Total Score: 61
|Total Score, Status||50,PF||49,PF||50,PF||48,PF||51,PF|
Status change explanation: Madagascar's status declined from Partly Free to Not Free to reflect a serious deterioration in the political environment for the media in 2009, both before and after the overthrow of the government in March. Both main parties routinely ignored constitutional protections for media freedom while in power, using harassment, intimidation, and censorship to restrict media operations. As a result, news coverage became extremely partisan and polarized, while diversity of views receded.
A coup swept the former mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Nirina Rajoelina, to the presidency in March 2009, and the ensuing dismissal of the parliament, a virtual suspension of the constitution, and the end of any semblance of judicial independence all contributed to a dangerous and violent year for journalists and the media.
With the breakdown of democracy and constitutional governance in 2009, the laws protecting freedom of the press were routinely ignored or selectively applied by authorities both before and after the coup.
Both governments closed media outlets for political reasons. The closure of Rajoelina's VIVA TV by the government of President Marc Ravalomanana at the end of 2008 precipitated the turmoil of 2009. In April, the Rajoelina government exacted its revenge by closing the Ravalomanana-owned TV Mada. In addition, at least five newspapers were forced to stop publishing.
There were several acts of violence against journalists during the year, with perpetrators on both sides of the political divide. In February 2009, security forces shot and killed Ando Ratovonirina of privately owned Radio et Television Analamanga (RTA) at a pro-Rajoelina demonstration in the capital, marking Madagascar's first killing of a reporter in the course of his work since 1992. In March, Christian Rivo Rakotonirina, the editor of an online newspaper, was attacked and left in a coma by Ravalomanana supporters, and reporter Sitraka Rafanomezantsoa of the daily newspaper Malaza was severely beaten by thugs reportedly hired by the Ravalomanana government. Rajoelina supporters similarly assaulted reporters for pro-Ravalomanna outlets, and both governments resorted to politically motivated arrests and censorship. After the coup, hopes for a reversal of the censorship policies of the previous regime were shattered when the government ordered state-owned media not to cover opposition demonstrations.
In 2009 there were approximately 250 radio stations and 39 television stations, though the government retains a monopoly on nationwide broadcasting. Thirteen private daily newspapers and many more that appear less frequently were published throughout the country, but the number fluctuated due to several closures and reopenings. Major political figures own several of the private media outlets. Ravalomanana, for instance, owns the Malagasy Broadcasting System, which operates television and radio stations, and Rajoelina owns VIVA TV. The state-owned media include Television Malagasy and Malagasy National Radio.
While there were no reports that the government restricted internet usage or monitored e-mail, allegations of technical sabotage of websites from both political camps surfaced during the year. Given the extremely chaotic, violent, and restrictive media environment within the country, access to information from abroad via the internet took on added importance. However, the polarization that plagued the traditional media was also evident in cyberspace, and only about 1.6 percent of the population had practical access to the internet in 2009.
In addition to standard internet platforms, citizens used mobile-telephone text messaging and microblogging technologies to communicate during the political crisis, providing another source of information and viewpoints for those who could access them.