Freedom Status: Partly Free
Aggregate Score: 56 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free)
Freedom Rating: 3.5 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Political Rights: 3 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Civil Liberties: 4 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 23,700,000
Capital: Antananarivo
GDP/capita: $402
Press Freedom Status: Partly Free


An unelected administration governed Madagascar for five years following a 2009 coup, but the country has since returned to electoral politics through presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. However, few governing bodies are truly independent from the president. Corruption and a lack of government accountability remain problematic. Independent journalists face pressure from authorities, and demonstrations are frequently banned or dispersed. The government has struggled to manage lawlessness in the southeast.

Key Developments in 2016:

  • The country adopted a new Communication Code that increased penalties for defamation.

  • In October, the United Nations reported that nearly 850,000 people were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance due to a severe drought.

  • Three people were killed and scores were injured in a grenade attack at the main Independence Day celebration in the capital.

Executive Summary:

While Madagascar has returned to electoral politics since a 2009 coup, the country's political framework is constituted by a fragile arrangement of personal networks through which the administration of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina develops and implements policy. In April 2016, President Rajaonarimampianina appointed his third prime minister in three years in a chaotic process in which the previous prime minister learned of his dismissal only after the announcement of the new one was made. Meanwhile, opposition political movements continued to demand the president's resignation, while in May a sitting senator was arrested amid rumors of another coup attempt.

During the year, lawmakers approved, and Rajaonarimampianina promulgated, a new Communication Code that included several provisions that could be used to restrict media freedom. Though initially expected to lift older provisions that allowed jail terms for defamation of public officials, the new code increased the possible fines for defamation, and contained penalties for offenses including using media to discourage participation in national celebrations, and disseminating information harmful to the country's currency.It also allowed for the confiscation of equipment or the outright closure of press outfits deemed repeat violators of the new code.

Popular discontent increased in 2016, amid a stagnant economy and an unresponsive political system. Demonstrations against the presence of foreign mining companies and land expropriation, and against the new Communication Code, took place during the year. Many demonstrations were banned or dispersed by authorities, particularly those against the new press restrictions. Police sometimes used excessive force when breaking up antigovernment gatherings.

Separately, at the Independence Day celebration in the capital in June, a grenade explosion killed 3 people and wounded over 90 in what authorities characterized as an act of political terrorism.

In October, the United Nations reported that nearly 850,000 people were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance due to a severe drought.

Explanatory Note:

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Madagascar, see Freedom in the World 2016.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.