Freedom of the Press
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Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
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The media environment in Seychelles over the past decade has featured a government monopoly on radio and television, frequent use of draconian libel laws against opposition newspapers, occasional attacks against and harassment of media workers, and extensive self-censorship. However, conditions have improved somewhat in recent years due to a reduction in the cost of broadcast licenses and the launch of new, independent media outlets. In 2014, these outlets provided increasingly diverse and critical coverage of newsworthy events in the country.
The constitution protects freedom of expression, but it also limits this guarantee with provisions protecting the reputation, rights, and privacy of citizens and the “interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health.” The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act grants the minister of information the power to prohibit the broadcast of any material deemed contradictory to the “national interest.”
The use of libel laws against journalists has diminished in recent years, as the government has increasingly taken such issues before the Seychelles Media Commission (SMC), a regulatory body established in 2011, as opposed to the courts. Nevertheless, civil libel suits can still be filed against journalists. Seychelles has no freedom of information legislation in place.
The Seychelles Media Commission Act set up the SMC as an independent media arbitration body, but some critics question its neutrality. In 2013, the commission published codes of conduct and ethics for journalists in the country.
In July 2014, representatives from different media houses established the Association of Media Practitioners Seychelles (AMPS) to serve as an advocacy group for journalists. It replaces the defunct Seychelles Media Association, which had previously been journalists’ main institutional advocate.
New, independent media outlets established since 2011, including a business periodical and a radio station that launched in 2013, have increased the diversity of news content and reduced the role of partisan bias, though politically slanted coverage remains a problem.
A new Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation Act was passed in 2011, replacing legislation from 1992. The act was intended to increase the autonomy of the state-owned Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), which runs the only television station and two radio stations. However, the period surrounding the 2011 presidential election highlighted the continued bias of the SBC in favor of the ruling Parti Lepep and its candidate, President James Michel, who won reelection. The government still dominates SBC news coverage, giving opposition parties only limited access to the airwaves.
There have been reports of the government monitoring e-mail, chat rooms, and blogs, and opposition activists have accused authorities of blocking their party websites. Individuals have been arrested, detained, and eventually released for posting critical comments about government officials on social-networking sites.
Journalists rarely face physical attacks or harassment. In June 2014, however, a photographer with an opposition-affiliated newspaper was reportedly beaten by Parti Lepep supporters while covering a march organized by the party.
The state has a de facto monopoly on television broadcasting, and until 2013 it controlled the only radio outlets as well. The government subsidizes 85 percent of the SBC budget, with the remaining 15 percent coming from private advertising. In addition to its own content, the SBC broadcasts foreign news programming from outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the U.S.-based Cable News Network (CNN).
Political parties are barred from obtaining broadcast licenses, and private broadcasters have been slow to develop because of prohibitively large annual licensing fees, though these were reduced in 2012 from 800,000 rupees ($64,000) to 100,000 rupees ($8,000) for radio and 250,000 rupees ($20,000) for television. Since then, authorities have granted two licenses to independent radio stations. In 2013, one of those stations, Pure FM, went on the air, becoming the country’s first private commercial radio outlet.
In the print sector, the state-owned daily Seychelles Nation rarely publishes stories that are critical of the government. Pressure from advertisers has led to management restructuring at the paper, and low salaries have resulted in the departure of seven journalists since 2010. The independent daily Today in Seychelles has grown to become one of the leading newspapers since launching in 2011. The Victoria Times began publication in 2013 as an independent, business-oriented triweekly. Three other weeklies, Le Seychellois Hebdo, The People, and Le Nouveau Seychelles Weekly are affiliated with political parties and express corresponding viewpoints. Newspapers reportedly practice self-censorship to protect the interests of major advertisers.
In 2012, Seychelles was connected to the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System, which provided the country with greater telecommunications bandwidth. About 54 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2014. Telecommunications companies must submit subscriber information to the government, though the requirement was not enforced during the year.