Freedom of the Press
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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 freedoms of speech and of the press are protected by the constitution, strict libel laws and other restrictions are used occasionally to muzzle the media. However, as in the previous year, no journalists were convicted of libel during 2007. In addition, unlike in the previous year, there were no reported incidents in which government authorities arrested journalists, and no journalists were attacked because of their work. However, in September Honore Tsabotogay, editor of the Catholic Church–owned Radio Rakama, was assaulted by supporters of the ruling party while he was shooting footage of vehicles transporting voters to polling stations. No action was taken against his attacker, but Tsabotogay was himself charged with “disrupting the election proceedings” by filming the transport; the charges were later dropped.
In 2007, there were approximately 245 licensed radio stations, 12 registered daily newspapers, and 37 licensed television stations. The 1990 Law on Press Freedom was followed by the creation of privately owned FM radio stations and more critical political reporting by the print media. However, President Marc Ravalomanana owns the private Malagasy Broadcasting System, which operates the MBS TV and Radio MBS networks. In addition, many private radio stations in the capital are owned by Ravalomanana supporters. Owing to low pay, journalists are subject to bribery. Occasionally, the government also exerts pressure on private media outlets to curb their coverage of political issues and criticism of the government, causing many journalists to practice self-censorship. Poverty and fairly widespread illiteracy also mean that the print media are accessed primarily by the French-speaking urban elite. The internet is unrestricted by the government but was accessed by less than 1 percent of the population in 2007.