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Authorities suspend news programme of Anjouan island's main radio station

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has urged authorities on the autonomous island of Anjouan to allow the island's main radio station, Radio Dzialandzé Mutsamudu (RDM), to resume its daily news programme, after it was suspended "until further notice" on 13 January 2005, under the orders of the Interior and Information Ministry.

"This decision is shocking, especially since the news programme dealt mainly with international issues," RSF said. "Suspending this programme means cutting the island off from the rest of the world and undermining diversity in news reporting, which is essential in a democracy," the organisation continued. "We call on Interior and Information Minister Djanffar Salim to allow the station to resume broadcasts of this very popular programme as soon as possible."

The suspension stemmed from a recent strike by the island's doctors. After Health Minister Fadhula Said Ali expressed his views on the strike on the state-owned Radio Télévision Anjouan (RTA), the doctors wanted to respond, but RTA refused. The doctors then turned to RDM, which allowed them to present their side of the dispute on the air.

In early January, the interior and information minister summoned RDM coordinator Said Ali Dacar Mgazi and an RDM journalist to a meeting with RTA executives to seek an explanation. Shortly thereafter, on 13 January, the minister issued his suspension order, accusing RDM of producing "programmes that do not conform with [its own] governing statutes and regulations."

When RDM was founded as a community radio station in 1992, it focused on cultural programming, but there is no law preventing it from broadcasting news programmes. Its evening news programme, anchored by Tex Mohamed, covered only international news, particularly developments in the Middle East.

Partnered with Radio France Internationale (RFI), the radio station is based in Mutsamudu, the capital of Anjouan, which unilaterally declared its independence in 1997. Mutsamudu is the second largest city in what is now the Union of Comoros. Anjouan's few media outlets struggle to survive with little funding and despite the strict controls imposed by the island's authorities.

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