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RFI correspondent forced to leave the country after government refuses to renew his work permit

(CPJ/IFEX) - In a 27 May 2005 letter to President Marc Ravalomanana, CPJ expressed concern that Olivier Péguy, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and several other international news organizations, was forced to leave the country on 22 May after the government refused to renew his work permit. Péguy, who had been reporting from Madagascar for four years, told CPJ that no explanation has been given for the non-renewal.

CPJ urged the president to make public the reasons for not renewing Péguy's work permit. If the permit was withheld because of Péguy's critical reporting, the organization urged Ravalomanana's government to reconsider and issue a renewal immediately.

CPJ is also troubled by prison sentences given to journalists working for "La Gazette de la Grande Ile", a private daily based in the capital, Antananarivo. Journalists working for the paper have been repeatedly targeted with criminal defamation suits. Most recently, publication director Rolland (also known as Lola) Rasoamaharo and editor James Ramarosaona were each sentenced on 19 April to one month in jail for criminal defamation in connection with an article published in January 2004 (see IFEX alert of 19 May 2005). The article alleged that employees of a state-owned real estate agency, SEIMAD, had embezzled money.

Rasoamaharo has been given at least three other prison sentences in connection with his work in recent months. He and Ramarosaona are free pending the newspaper's appeals.

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