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Mauritania14 March 2007

Presidential election campaign being covered fairly by public media

After its second week of monitoring domestic coverage of Mauritania’s presidential election, Reporters Without Borders today said it was pleased to report that the public media are covering the campaigns of all 19 candidates fairly.

The public media have complied strictly with the instructions of the High Authority for Press and Broadcasting (HAPA) to assign free newspaper space and air time to each candidate for their individual spots and announcements.

In addition to the free space, coverage of the candidates’ campaigns has also been more fairly apportioned during the second week.

RADIO AND TV: The slight imbalance in favour of candidate Ould Cheikh Abdellahi in the TV news programmes and radio news bulletins noted during the first week of the campaign was corrected during the second week, Reporters Without Borders said.

All the candidates had access to Radio de Mauritanie’s “Campaign Report,” the organisation found. Analysis of the quantitative data during the second week showed that an effort was made to increase the air time of the “minor” candidates. Ould Cheikh Abdellahi and Ould Daddah were accorded 12 and 9 per cent respectively during the first week. This was reduced to 9 and 7 per cent during the second week. The air time of some of the “minor” candidates doubled or even tripled during he second week. (Isselmou Moustapha went from 4 min 28 sec to 9 min 25 sec while Rachid Moustapha went from 2 min 52 sec to 8 min 52 sec.)

Télévision de Mauritanie also improved its distribution of air time to the candidates. After getting 16 per cent of TV news air time in the first week, Ould Cheikh Abdellahi got 7 per cent in the second. Of the six candidates that got no air time in the first week - Moulaye Ould Jeyid, Mohamed Ahmed Ould Salihi, Isselmou Moustapha, Rachid Moustapha, Mohamed Ould Sidati and Ould Ebi El Maali - all except Ould Sidati were covered during TV news programmes in the second week. Their air time ranged from 3 min 26 sec for Mohamed Ould Salihi to 17 min 52 sec for Moulaye Ould Jeyid.

PRINT MEDIA AND NEWS AGENCY: The Arabic-language daily Chaab, the French-language daily Horizons and the state news agency, the Agence Mauritanienne d’Information (AMI), all increased the volume of coverage given to Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, thereby reducing the advantage Ould Daddah enjoyed during the first week.

The difference in the newspaper space given over to these two candidates in the two state dailies fell from 3.37 points in the first week to 1.5 points in the second. Similarly, each candidate received an equal number of mentions - 15 - by the AMI during the second week, against 11 mentions for Ould Cheikh Abdellahi and 14 mentions for Ould Daddah during the first week.

Recommendations

In the light of the results obtained during the first two weeks of monitoring, Reporters Without Borders recommends that:

-  The HAPA should issue directives to the public media as regards coverage of the political activities of the two candidates in the second-round runoff, in particular, the need to apply the principle of strict equality in the distribution to the candidates and their supporters of air time and speaking time in the broadcast media and space in the two dailies, Horizons and Chaab, and in the AMI’s dispatches.

-  The public media should ensure strict equality of air time and talking time in their coverage of electoral news between the two rounds. They should also continue to correct any imbalances that could result from the activities of differing degrees of importance of the candidates and their supporters.


Monitoring role
Reporters Without Borders is monitoring the electoral coverage of the public media - Télévision de Mauritanie, Radio de Mauritanie, the Horizons and Chaab daily newspapers and the Agence Mauritanienne d’Information - from 24 February and until the end of the presidential election. The public media have been chosen because they are subject to the electoral law, which guarantees equal access to all the candidates and parties participating. As a public service financed by the state, they have to a duty to behave in an exemplary manner during the elections.

Method of working
Reporters Without Borders calculates the time candidates are being covered and the time they are speaking on the air on all Mauritanian TV and radio news programmes. The organisation also measures the square centimetres of page space they are assigned in the Horizons and Chaab daily newspapers, and the number of references made to them in AMI dispatches. Air time: Includes speaking time and the duration of all forms of coverage (quotes, reports, comments, studio interviews and so on). Speaking time: Time spent by candidates speaking directly on the air.


The monitoring is being carried out with financial support from the European Union and the International Organisation of Francophone Countries (OIF).



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