Madagascar: Protester Freed, Journalists Demonstrate Against Censorship

The Malagasy online community was relieved to hear the news that Razily, a protester who was arrested in late March, was seen in public (fr) and he seems well and about. While much is still unknown about the circumstances of Razily's release, many bloggers hope that this event signifies the beginning of a return to normalcy with respect to the conduct of the country's security forces.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in acts of censorship, with in the arrest of reporter Evariste Ramanatsoavina, jailed on May, 5th, and the firing of Ravoajanahary Johary, director of National Television on May 19th. Journalists demonstrated for freedom of speech on May 15th, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters without Borders (fr) reported

Mohamed Hassim Keita of CPJ explains:

The protestors were showing solidarity for Ramanatsoavina, a presenter held in Antananarivo's Antanimora Prison on charges of “incitement to rebellion” and “civil disobedience,” according to defense lawyer Fidele Rakotondrainibe. The journalist, who denies the charges, is expected to appear in court for sentencing on Wednesday.

( video credits to pakysse )

Reporter Without Borders has further details on the arrest of Ramanatsoavina:

He was arrested at his home at 5 a.m. on 5 May by masked soldiers as his daughters looked on, and was taken to the National Mixed Committee for Investigations (CNME), which is located in the suburb of Ambohibao, in premises that used to be the headquarters of the former domestic intelligence service, the DGID [..] The decision to bring charges against Ramanantsoavina contradicted an initial statement by communication ministry secretary-general Charles-Aimé Randriamorasata that the authorities had arrested him simply to find out where Radio Mada was broadcasting from.

Razily's Release

For its part, the Malagasy blogosphere was buzzing about the good news of Razily's release. Ndimby on fijery blog explains the key role bloggers played in pressuring the government and what his release means for the online community following the Madagascar crisis:

Devant la démission des médias traditionnels sur le sujet, et il faut bien le dire, de l’opinion publique nationale devenue par la force des choses blasée, ce sont les blogueurs qui ont mis la pression. Alors qu’on n’a jamais vu un article de la presse écrite malgache poser la question, les internautes malgaches se sont mobilisés aux quatre coins du monde. Des gens qui ne se connaissaient pas, qui ne se parlaient pas, qui ne connaissaient pas Razily, en ont fait le symbole de leur lutte pour la démocratie et les droits de l’homme. Rappelons que suite à la mobilisation de la société civile et des blogueurs, le haut-commissaire des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme a envoyé discrètement un émissaire discuter avec le pouvoir de transition. Ce diplomate a rencontré à plusieurs reprises le Colonel Rakotonandrasana, le chef des mutins devenu Ministre de la défense

Considering that mainstream national media gave up on the (Razily) issue and that national public opinion has become more and more polarized with time, it's the bloggers who kept on the pressure. While there was not a single article written in the Malagasy press posing the question, bloggers from 4 corners of the world came together. People who did not know each other, did not speak to each other, did not know Razily, made him the symbol of democracy and human rights. Let's remember that following the petition, the High Commissioner to Human Rights sent an envoy to discuss with the transitional government. The diplomat repeatedly met with Colonel Rakotonandrasana, head of mutineers who became Minister of Defense

Blogger Avylavitra wonders why there is so much mobilization now and where everyone was earlier in the conflict (mg) ?

Fanamarihana kely avy amiko fotsiny ny hoe: fa maninona moa no tsy nihetsika toy izao ny mpanao gazety fony nitranga ny fahafatesan’i ANDO (RTA)?

I am just wondering: why wasn't there such a protest from journalists when Ando (from RTA) died earlier (in February) ?
demonstration photo by

demonstration photo by

( March against censorship by Avylavitra)

A prominent Malagasy, website TopMada, notes that the committee of journalists in Madagascar is weary of the increased partisanship of journalists in the Malagasy political landscape:

Selon le comité des journalistes, l’image du journalisme est fortement ternie suite à la participation active de certains de leurs confrères dans les actions et activités politiques. Les journalistes veulent revenir à la déontologie et à l’éthique de la profession

According to the committee of journalists, the public image of journalism is strongly strained by the active participation by some of their colleagues in political activities and actions. Journalists should strive to return to the deontology and ethics of the profession


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