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Reporter Ando Ratovonirina fatally shot while covering anti-government demonstration as security forces open fire on protestors

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that Ando Ratovonirina of privately-owned Radio et Télévision Analamanga (RTA) was shot dead while covering an anti-government demonstration outside the presidential palace in Antananarivo on 7 February 2009. The 25-year-old reporter and cameraman was among the scores of people who were killed or wounded when security forces opened fired on the protesters.

"Like all those mourning an unnecessary death, our first thoughts are for the victim's family as well as for the RTA staff, who are traumatised by the loss of their young colleague," Reporters Without Borders said. "We hail the courage of independent journalists who do their best to cover the political unrest in Madagascar despite threats, intimidation and a disturbing level of violence. It is not right that a journalist should have to pay with his life for trying to report the news for his fellow citizens."

Ratovonirina was part of the RTA team covering a large demonstration organised by Antananarivo mayor Andry Rajoelina on 7 February to call for the replacement of President Marc Ravalomanana's government. He was shot in the head when members of the presidential guard opened fire on demonstrators as they surged towards the presidential palace. His body was immediately taken to Ravoahangy Hospital, where a doctor said he had been killed by a "gunshot wound behind the ear."

Fellow RTA journalists Heritina Ny Anjarason and Mirindra Raparivelo were with Ratovonirina at the time of the shooting.

Anjarason told Reporters Without Borders: "Ando was holding a microphone and was taking notes while Mirindra had a small camera. A delegation representing the mayor had gone to talk to the soldiers guarding the palace. When it returned, we approached the mayor's chief of staff, Gen. Dolin, to interview him about the outcome of the negotiations. We had not yet reached Gen. Dolin and we had our backs to the palace when the shooting started. We threw ourselves to the ground but Ando was hit all the same."

RTA editor in chief Andry Raveloson told Reporters Without Borders: "Ando died while on the job, as a result of his dedication to journalism. We decided to broadcast only a shortened version of the news programme as a tribute to him."

Ratovonirina had only recently completed his journalism studies and had been working for RTA for three months. He was previously a photographer for the "La Gazette de la Grande Ile" daily newspaper and used to write for the "Tophos" news agency under the pseudonym of Hathor.

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