On January 25, the High Constitutional Court of Madagascar ruled that a runoff vote “within 30 days” would resolve the disputed December 2001 presidential election between longtime leader Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana, mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. Despite the ruling, however, both men declared themselves president and introduced their Cabinets to an impoverished populace, which they encouraged to take to the streets in support of their respective governments.
Caught in the middle, journalists felt the heat of the unusual political situation, with supporters on each side attacking media outlets suspected of editorial bias against the other. On February 2, Ratsiraka’s Information Ministry seized broadcast equipment from the private FM 91 radio station, which is owned by a prominent Ravalomanana supporter, on the northern island of Nosy Be. Eighteen days later, pro-Ravalomanana high school students ransacked the offices of Amoron’i Mania Radio-Television, which Ratsiraka’s prime minister owns.
By mid-February, with the country divided, the economy in tatters, and a rift widening in the military, the Indian Ocean island nation was on the brink of civil war. Individual journalists who attempted to report the news fairly were accused of partisanship. In the northern town of Diego Suarez, for example, supporters of both presidential contenders publicly threatened to kill journalist Narcisse Randriamirado, the correspondent for the private daily Madagascar Tribune.
Threats and violent assaults against the media continued throughout February, March, and April, forcing many reporters to go into hiding. On February 25, Malagasy State Radio and Television released a statement saying that its stations could not broadcast because Ratsiraka supporters had seized the outlet’s equipment, including transmitters, and moved it to an undisclosed location. On April 8, the private Radio-Télévision Analamanga announced that it was canceling its news bulletin because of repeated phone threats.
In late April, the High Constitutional Court announced that Ravalomanana had won the runoff–with 51 percent of the ballots to Ratsiraka’s 36–and declared Ravalomanana the country’s new president. Ratsiraka fled to France. Despite threats of secession from embattled governors and hard-core elements of Ratsiraka’s Association for Madagascar’s Renaissance, the political situation gradually returned to normal, with no new attacks on media workers or news outlets reported from May through the end of 2002. On December 15, President Ravalomanana’s Tiako I Madagasikara (I Love Madagascar) Party won more than half of the National Assembly’s 160 seats in violence-free legislative elections involving 1,300 candidates from 40 political parties.
Private radio station FM 91, based on the northern island of Nosy Be, was closed by Lt. Col. Ancelin Coutiti, technical adviser to the information minister. The station’s equipment was also confiscated. FM 91 is owned by a provincial councilor sympathetic to Marc Ravalomanana, former Antananarivo mayor and opposition leader who declared himself president on February 22, 2002, after disputed December 16, 2001, presidential elections.
Madagascar Broadcasting Service
A Madagascar Broadcasting Service (MBS) crew in Brickaville, a town east of the capital, Antananarivo, was attacked by supporters of then president Didier Ratsiraka. MBS is owned by Marc Ravalomanana, the former Antananarivo mayor and opposition leader who declared himself president on February 22, 2002, after disputed December 16, 2001, presidential elections.
Amoron’i Mania Radio-Television
The offices of the Amoron’i Mania Radio-Television (ART) station in the town of Ambositra les Roses, south of the capital, Antananarivo, were raided by striking secondary school students. The students were protesting the station’s coverage of the contested December 16, 2001, presidential elections, which they considered to be overly partisan. ART is owned by Tantely Andrianarivo, President Didier Ratsiraka’s prime minister.
Madagascar Broadcasting Service
Radio Vatovavy Mananjary
Malagasy State Radio and Television
Four radio stations were attacked and destroyed as violence erupted over disputed presidential election results. Supporters of President Didier Ratsiraka allegedly attacked the offices of the Madagascar Broadcasting Service’s (MBS) radio station in Fianarantsoa, some 90 miles (144 kilometers) south of the capital, Antananarivo. The station’s facilities were set ablaze, seriously injuring three security guards.
MBS is owned by Marc Ravalomanana, Antananarivo mayor and opposition leader who declared himself president on February 22, 2002, prompting embattled president Didier Ratsiraka to declare a state of emergency.
After the MBS station was attacked, Ravalomanana supporters ransacked and destroyed Radio TSIOKAVAO, a private, pro-government station. Radio Vatovavy Mananjary, owned by former cabinet minister Jacquit Simon, and station ART Ambositra, owned by Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo, were also attacked.
On February 25, Malagasy State Radio and Television released a statement saying that its stations could not broadcast because Ratsiraka supporters had seized the outlet’s broadcast equipment, including transmitters, and moved it to an undisclosed location.
The conflict follows a hotly contested December 16, 2001, presidential poll between Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana. Ravalomanana claimed victory with 52 percent of the vote, but the Constitutional Court ruled that neither candidate had captured a clear majority and ordered a runoff. Ravalomanana rejected the ruling, and the second round of voting never occurred.
On February 22, Ravalomanana declared himself president; in response, Ratsiraka declared a state of emergency, which empowered the government to take control of public services and the media.