18 March 2009


Five newspapers were forced to stop publishing and several journalists were attacked amid a power struggle that culminated Monday with the resignation of President Marc Ravalomana and the announcement that the ousted mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, will lead Madagascar's transitional government.

More than a hundred people have been killed in violent campaigns waged by pro-Ravalomana and pro-Rajoelina forces since January, when Rajoelina accused Ravolamana of mismanagement and protests broke out. Journalists were particularly threatened in the prolonged dispute; in February, a reporter was shot dead while covering a pro-Rajoelina rally.

On 10 March, Christian Rivo Rakotonirina, editor of an online newspaper and former editor of the daily "Tribune de Madagascar," was viciously attacked by a pro-Ravalomana mob at a stadium in Antananarivo. The beating was so severe that the editor temporarily went into a coma, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

A few days earlier, Sitraka Rafanomezantsoa, a journalist with the daily "Malaza", was severely beaten with clubs and iron bars by "demo busters" who were hired by the Ravalomana government, RSF reports.

The assaults on journalists were not only perpetuated by pro-Ravalomana militants, however. Last week, Rajoelina supporters also chased, searched and robbed Tiaray Rakoto, a reporter with the Ravalomana-owned "Inona Ny Vaovao?" ("What news"), RSF says.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also reports that last week, more than 50 armed soldiers and police surrounded the studios of Viva, a broadcaster owned by Rajoelina, seizing transmission equipment and destroying microphones and mixing consoles. In response to the escalating brutality against journalists, five newspapers stopped publishing in the last two weeks, RSF reports.

Visit these links:
- RSF on attacks against journalists: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30577- CPJ on media outlet raids: http://tinyurl.com/dlrr7j- BBC South Africa report on power takeover: http://tinyurl.com/d924xu(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

(18 March 2009)

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