Soldiers raid Madagascar radio station, assault staff

New York, May 18, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the government of Madagascar to investigate a Saturday raid on the opposition radio station Fréquence Plus that resulted in the arrest of an opposition leader while he was on a live radio program, local journalists told CPJ. The soldiers injured three journalists and destroyed the station’s equipment in 67 Hectares, a district in the capital, Antananarivo, before arresting opposition leader Ambroise Ravonison and another on-air guest, Harrison Razafindrakoto, the journalists said.

Soldiers forced the station’s doors open and struck journalist Noéline Tombo and two technicians working at the station, according to local news reports. Tombo spent Saturday night in the hospital with a shoulder injury, Director Mbinintsoa Ranaivoson said in a statement.

Ranaivoson added that the station is temporarily off the air due to the damaged radio equipment. Gendarmerie Commander Col. Richard Ravalomanana, said the soldiers had a court-issued arrest warrant, according to local reports. Communications Minister Nathalie Rabe denounced the raid and publicly suggested that the station owners launch a commission of inquiry through the state media ombudsman, according to local news reports.

“We condemn this brutal raid on radio station Fréquence Plus,” said Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “For too long, Malagasy journalists have been the victims of political feuds. The government must clarify who was behind this raid and compensate the station for all damages.”    

In late 2008, former Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina took power in a military-backed struggle that ousted former president Marc Ravalomanana. Since early 2008, there has been an ongoing tit-for-tat destruction of media houses and harassment of journalists thought to be allied with the two politicians. Presidential guards fired on opposition demonstrators during an antigovernment demonstration in the capital last year and killed private broadcaster Radio Télévision Analamanga cameraman Ando Ratovonirina, according to witnesses.