Calm has returned after the serious political crisis of 2002. The news media can once again work with complete freedom and safety throughout the country, even if pressures of an economic kind are increasingly being felt.
Madagascar experienced an unprecedented crisis in 2002, in which several journalists were arrested, physically attacked or threatened and the premises of many news media were ransacked by security forces or political activists.
But Marc Ravalomanana was finally installed as president and his rival, outgoing president Didier Ratsiraka, went into exile. Thereafter, the many privately-owned print and broadcast media were again able to work without problem and press freedom violations virtually disappeared.
But several journalists said new, more insidious forms of pressure were beginning to affect news media diversity. Advertising is essential for the Madagascan press and some editors said they feared they would suffer because major advertisers were choosing where to place their advertising partly on the basis of newspapers’ editorial policies.
A few journalists said they had received political guidelines from their editors or warnings from politicians. The Order of Journalists on 3 May spoke of cases of intimidation. A few days later, the defence minister asked the press to do its work better. This "recommendation" was not welcomed by some journalists, who staged a demonstration on 26 May and voted for a one-day press strike in protest.
A journalist detained
Yves Jeannel Ravelonarivo, a cameraman with the television channel TV Plus, was briefly detained on 15 March 2003 in the southern town of Tulear on 15 March 2003. Police manhandled him, injuring him in an arm, and confiscated his equipment. A supporter of the former regime, he had been covering a political meeting which had not been authorised by the local authorities. The meeting turned into a demonstration, which the police then dispersed.
Harassment and obstruction
At a press conference on 19 May 2003, defence minister Gen. Jules Mamizara "asked" journalists "to cross-check the information they get and not immediately swallow what is said." He also asked them and to avoid "public insults or defamation concerning the army and the military." He stressed that this was intended as a reminder and not as an act of "intimidation" or "provocation." It was nonetheless seen as a veiled threat by several dozen journalists who staged a peaceful protest march in Antananarivo on 26 May. A delegation was received by communication minister Haja Razafinjatovo. They issued a joint statement afterwards reiterating the rapprochement between journalists and the ministry.