Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although freedom of speech and of the press are protected by the constitution, strict libel laws and other restrictions are occasionally used to muzzle the media. In June, the government media regulatory body, the Direction de l’Information, de la Regulation, et des Media, proposed a measure to regulate guests invited to appear on radio and television broadcasts. In November, higher fines and maximum prison sentences of up to five years were proposed for journalists convicted of libel or “disturbing the peace.”
Unlike in the previous year, in 2006 no journalists were convicted of libel. However, several attempts to restrict government criticism occurred prior to the December presidential elections. In October, a journalist from the daily L’Objectif Malaza was arrested for covering protests in Toamasina. Days later, a female journalist was harassed by security forces, and reporter Eloi Ravelonjato was arrested at a welcoming rally for a presidential candidate, Pierrot Rajaonarivelo. Radio Don Bosco and TV Plus were warned by government officials to cease reporting on the failed coup attempt by General Fidy in November. President Marc Ravalomanana additionally issued a public warning following the coup for journalists not to publish unchecked news or face action against them, according to the U.S. State Department. The government continued to refuse to renew a work permit for the Radio France Internationale (RFI) correspondent Olivier Peguy; RFI subsequently assigned a new correspondent to cover Madagascar.
There are 14 major privately owned dailies and several weeklies and monthlies; however, because of the low literacy rate, print media are aimed primarily at the French-educated urban elite. The majority of the population receives news through the broadcast media, which the government continues to monopolize nationwide. There were nonetheless over 200 radio stations, 137 of which were licensed, and 20 licensed television stations. Owing to low pay, journalists are subject to bribery. Occasionally, the government also employs strong-arm tactics to pressure private media outlets to curb their coverage of political issues, causing many journalists to practice self-censorship. The internet is unrestricted by the government but was accessed by less than 1 percent of the population in 2006.