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Seychelles4 October 2006

Newspaper editor freed, charged with “unlawful assembly”

Roger Mancienne, editor of the privately-owned weekly Regar and secretary-general of the opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP), told Reporters Without Borders he was released this morning after being held for nearly 24 hours in the central police barracks in Victoria.

Like SNP leader Wavel Ramkalawan and Regar publisher Jean-François Ferrari, he has been charged with “unlawful assembly,” which is punishable by a fine of 500 rupees (77 euros). All three have been told to report to police headquarters on 10 October.

“I was held in a dirty, stinking cell and I was only handcuffed when they took me to be interrogated or to have my fingerprints taken,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “I said to the police my rights had been violated and that I had committed no crime.”

The SNP has called a news conference for this afternoon to give its account of the violent dispersal of yesterday’s demonstration outside parliament, which was called to demand an end to the state’s monopoly of radio and TV broadcasting.

In its evening news programme yesterday, the state-owned Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) just showed a few images of the demonstration and a long interview with the chief of police, giving “an erroneous version of the facts,” Mancienne said.

“We will see where or not the SBC comes to our news conference to balance its coverage,” he said. “If it does not, it will prove the state media are controlled.”

03.10.2006 - Newspaper editor arrested, publisher injured when police disperse protest against state broadcast monopoly

Reporters Without Borders condemned the violent dispersal of an opposition demonstration in the Seychelles capital of Victoria today to demand an end to the state’s monopoly of radio and TV broadcasting. Roger Mancienne, the editor of the opposition weekly Regar, was arrested while Jean-François Ferrari, the newspaper’s publisher, was injured.

“It is perfectly legitimate to demand an end to the state’s broadcasting monopoly and strict control of the public media,” the press freedom organisation said. “So it is incomprehensible that anti-riot police used violence against unarmed citizens who turned out in support of the opposition and journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “President James Michel’s government must admit that it is high time it peacefully relinquished its grip over news and information in Seychelles. And there was absolutely no valid reason for arresting Mancienne. He must be freed at once.”

In today’s demonstration, several hundred supporters of the opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP) gathered outside parliament to hand in a petition calling for press freedom. The protest was prompted by parliament’s rejection of a SNP motion to amend the law banning political parties from setting up their own radio stations. The opposition is denied access to state radio and TV stations, even at election time, and the editorial policies of the public media are strictly controlled by the government.

The communication minister looked on today as anti-riot police armed with guns and tear grenades stormed the site of the protest and beat opposition members and journalists who were present. Ferrari sustained head injuries and multiple fractures, his wife told Reporters Without Borders. He was taken to a hospital along with SNP chief Wavel Ramkalawan, whose condition was not immediately known. Mancienne, who is also the SNP’s secretary-general, was taken to police headquarters, where he is still being held.

Regar and The New Seychelles Weekly are the only opposition media in Seychelles, which has draconian legislation on defamation and inaccurate news reports that is enforced by courts that are often very politicised. An arson attack on Regar’s printing press on the night of 8 December 2005 is still unpunished.

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Judicial harassment forces opposition weekly to stop publishing
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Arson attack causes serious damage to opposition weekly’s press
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19 March - Seychelles
The life of the independent newspaper Regar threatened

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