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Madagascar22 May 2009

Radio Mada reporter freed after two weeks in detention

Reporters Without Borders welcome’s Radio Mada reporter Evariste Ramanantsoavina’s release on 20 May. He had been held since 5 May, when soldiers arrested him in order to force him to reveal the location from which the station was broadcasting in defiance of a closure order.

“We are relieved to learn that Ramanantsoavina is free at last,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is nonetheless deplorable that he spent two weeks in detention although the authorities had no substantive evidence that he had committed any crime.”

An Antananarivo court ordered his release at a midday hearing on 20 May after acquitting him on five charges, including “inciting revolt,” and fining him 370 euros on a sixth charge of disseminating false information. Many journalists were in the courtroom for the hearing, but Ramanantsoavina remained in prison and was finally released at about 5 pm.

Arrested at his home by masked soldiers at 5 am on 5 May, he had been charged on 7 May and incarcerated in the capital’s Antanimora prison.

Radio Mada supports the exiled former president, Marc Ravalomanana. After Ramanantsoavina had been forced to reveal the secret location from which it had been broadcasting since the change of government, soldiers then went to the location, dismantled the transmitter and seized equipment.

07.05.09 - Detained Radio Mada reporter is charged and transferred to prison

Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by today’s decision to keep Radio Mada sports reporter Evariste Ramanantsoavina in detention and charge him with “inciting revolt against the republic’s institutions,” defamation and disseminating false information. He was arrested on 5 May and forced to reveal the location from which the radio was broadcasting in defiance of a closure order.

“Even if one could understand why the authorities wanted to prevent a radio station from continuing to broadcast clandestinely in violation of an official ban, the way they singled out one of its journalists and the manner of his arrest are shocking and incomprehensible,” Reporters Without Borders said, calling for Ramanantsoavina’s immediate release.

Ramanantsoavina was taken this evening to the prosecutor’s office in Antananarivo, where he was formally charged and an order was issued transferring him to prison. He will now have to spend the weekend in prison pending a trial hearing on 11 May.

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.

There he was made to reveal the secret location from which Radio Mada, which supports the exiled former president, Marc Ravalomanana, has been broadcasting since the change of government. Soldiers then went to the location, dismantled its transmitter and seized equipment under communication ministry closure order 01/096mcc of 27 April accusing the station of “inciting civil disobedience and undermining public confidence in institutions.”

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.

His arrest just 48 hours after World Press Freedom Day stunned journalists in Madagascar and was immediately condemned by the Order of Madagascar Journalists, which called for his unconditional release.

Aware that Madagascar is currently in a difficult period that has given rise to cases of unprofessional behaviour by some news media, Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call to all the country’s journalists to provide responsible, objective news coverage and not take sides in the ongoing political power struggle.

The previous Reporters Without Borders press release on Madagascar

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