The violence highlighted escalating political tensions
between Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana and rival Andry Rajoelina, the
mayor of the capital,
An hour later, protesters burned down the studios of Malagasy Broadcasting System, a station owned by President Ravalomanana, according to local news reports and local journalists. A 14-year-old demonstrator and a policeman died in clashes at the scene, according to local reporters.
Earlier, at around 3 a.m., about a dozen armed government security agents disabled the transmitter of Viva Radio, a station owned by Rajoelina, according to local journalists. Communications Minister Bruno Andriantavison had threatened to shut down the station last week, saying that the commentary on a morning call-in program had incited civil disobedience and undermined "the public's trust towards national institutions," the local media quoted an official letter as saying.
"Media outlets have become the undeserving targets of
political feuding and violence between the government and opposition forces,"
In a prior incident, on January 9, two unidentified attackers threw a small bomb with a warning note about the program in the home of veteran journalist Harry Laurent Rahajason, better known as Rolly Mercia, according to local journalists. No one was injured, the journalists said.
Media outlets owned by Rajoelina and independent stations providing coverage of his political activities have been the targets of government censorship since December 13 when authorities shut down Viva TV, a sister station to Viva Radio also owned by Ravalomanana, according to CPJ research. An order signed by Communications Minister Bruno Andriatavison and obtained by CPJ accused Viva TV of broadcasting "statements likely to trouble security and public order" after the station aired a November full-length interview with exiled former president Didier Ratsiraka, according to local journalists. The government deemed the remarks likely to "incite civil disorder." Andriatavison subsequently withdrew the license of Viva TV and and security forces seized the station's transmitter on January 18.