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MEDIA TARGETED IN POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE

Four radio stations have been attacked in Madagascar following an eruption of violence over disputed presidential election results and the imposition of a state of emergency, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). IFJ, RSF and CJFE are expressing concern that the state of emergency, declared on 22 February by President Didier Ratsiraka, will have a negative impact on press freedom because it gives the president total control over news broadcasts.

CPJ reports that the day after the state of emergency was declared, the offices of the Madagascar Broadcasting Service (MBS) in Fianarantsoa were set ablaze by supporters of President Ratsiraka. MBS is owned by Marc Ravalomanana, the opposition leader who disputed the 16 December 2001 election result and declared himself president on 22 February. Following the attack on MBS, supporters of Ravalomanana destroyed the facilities of the pro-government Radio TSIOKAVAO, while two other radio stations, owned by present and former cabinet ministers, were also attacked, adds CPJ. Three days later, Malagasy State Radio and Television announced that Ratsiraka supporters had seized its broadcast equipment, preventing the station from reporting.

In its recently released survey of world-wide press freedom, the International Press Institute (IPI) observed that while Madagascar is thought to be "relatively advanced in the area of press freedom," the December elections would be an important indication of how committed the government is to this principle.

For more information, see www.cpj.org, www.ifj.org, www.cjfe.org, ww.rsf.org and www.freemedia.at.


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