Madagascar: Mass media

Updated July 2010

Note: In March 2010 the National Electoral Council (CNE, Conseil National Electoral) was abolished and the functions attributed to it below were transferred to the newly created National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI, Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante).

Extracted from: Lucien Toulou 2009 "Chapter 6: Madagascar" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 199-201.

The constitution of Madagascar also guarantees freedom of the press and stipulates that the exercise of this freedom cannot be subjected to restrictions, except to ensure the safeguarding of law and public order, and respect for others' rights. In general, the government in Madagascar respects freedom of speech, even though in practice it dominates the media, as most of the news in the country is provided through state-sponsored media. The state television, Télévision Malagasy (TVM), has national coverage. Two private channels (RTA and MA-TV) transmit programmes locally in Antananarivo. The MBS (Malagasy Broadcasting System) TV is privately owned by the president of the republic, Marc Ravalomanana. In addition, there are two other private channels, TV Plus, and Radio Télévision Ravinala. The main radio channels include Radio Nationale Malagasy (RNM), which is the state radio channel covering the whole country. Radio Don Bosco is a Catholic station which also covers the whole country. Radio MBS is the radio version of Marc Ravalomanana's private TV channel.

Five private radio stations operate in different parts of Madagascar according to a study conducted by the Oslo-based Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (Nordem), whose main observations are based on the report from the EU Election Observer Mission and on findings from of the observers from Norway (Schumann 2003). Madagascar also has four daily newspapers; three are printed in French and one in Malagasy. In addition, there are four weekly magazines, two in French and two in Malagasy. All of the print press is privately owned. According to the Nordem report, the impact of the daily newspapers is limited due to the high illiteracy rate (Schumann 2003). Lack of adequate transportation and communication is another factor which practically limits the distribution of daily newspapers to the capital. In the other big cities the newsprint arrives one or two days late. This means that television, but above all the radio, plays a more important role in the country than the printed press.

Article 41 of the Electoral Code provides for equitable access to media. The CNE is responsible for the allocation of airtime to candidates and parties during the electoral campaign and plays an oversight role in order to prevent partisan manipulation of state-owned media. For instance, Section 11 of the 2007 National Legislative Elections campaign decree provided that the CNE would allocate time slots in the public media (radio and television) at both national and local levels to candidates to broadcast campaign messages. The EISA mission had the impression that the time allocated (two minutes per candidate on a daily basis) was too short to cater for the campaign needs of candidates (EISA 2007). Candidates had an option of additional paid advertisements, but this seemed to favour those political parties or candidates that have sizeable resources.

These legal provisions do not necessarily apply to privately owned media. The absence of any laws setting limits on candidates' expenditure or imposing standard rates for publicity in the private media is responsible for the unequal nature of the publicity campaigns. The SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission to the December 2006 presidential election said it was unable to pronounce on the media's adherence with the relevant provisions of its Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC Region in the absence of legal and institutional mechanisms for monitoring the conduct of the media during elections as well as ensuring balanced coverage of contestants (SADC Parliamentary Forum 2006, 4).

However, notice was taken by most election observers in 2002, 2006 and 2007 of the widespread perception of opposition parties that the ruling TIM, because of incumbency, enjoyed a great deal of coverage in state-owned media. For instance, the EU mission found that the space dedicated to the activities of the president and those of ministers in the 2002 parliamentary elections surpassed 80 per cent of the programmes dedicated to politics in the RNM and 90 per cent in the TVM. The absence of any code on election and party funding and the absence of access to media coverage meant that conditions were not equal for all candidates. During the election campaign, the state media did not provide any significant opportunities, outside publicity time, whether free of charge or against payment, for a presentation of the parties' manifestos (Schumann 2003). The same applied to the main private electronic media, which were characterised by a lack of debate between candidates. The written press, though not widely distributed in the country, provided a more thorough analysis of the campaign. However, it reached only a very limited proportion of voters (Schumann 2003).

News websites

L'Express de Madagascar, [www] http://www.lexpressmada.com/ [French; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

Madagascar Tribune, [www]http://www.madagascar-tribune.com/ [French; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

MIDI Madagasikara, [www] http://www.midi-madagasikara.mgf [French; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

References

EISA 2007 Election Observer Mission Report Madagascar National Assembly Elections 23 September 2007 [PDF document].

SADC PARLIAMENTARY FORUM 2006 "Interim Statement, Election Observer Mission to the December 2006 Presidential Election in Madagascar".

SCHUMANN, B 2003 Madagascar National Assembly Elections 2002, Nordem Report 04/2003, [www] [www] http://www.jus.uio.no/smr/english/about/programmes/nordem/publications/nordem-report/2003/04/nordem_report.html [opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

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