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Detained Radio Mada reporter charged and transferred to prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the 7 May 2009 decision to keep Radio Mada sports reporter Evariste Ramanantsoavina in detention and charge him with "inciting revolt against the republic's institutions, defamation and disseminating false information." He was arrested on 5 May and forced to reveal the location from which the radio was broadcasting in defiance of a closure order.

"Even if one could understand why the authorities wanted to prevent a radio station from continuing to broadcast clandestinely in violation of an official ban, the way they singled out one of its journalists and the manner of his arrest are shocking and incomprehensible," Reporters Without Borders said, calling for Ramanantsoavina's immediate release.

On the evening of 7 May, Ramanantsoavina was taken to the prosecutor's office in Antananarivo, where he was formally charged and an order was issued transferring him to prison. He will now have to spend the weekend in prison pending a trial hearing on 11 May.

He was arrested at his home at 5 a.m. (local time) on 5 May by masked soldiers as his daughter looked on, and was taken to the National Mixed Committee for Investigations (CNME), which is located in the suburb of Ambohibao, in premises that used to be the headquarters of the former domestic intelligence service, the DGID.

There he was made to reveal the secret location from which Radio Mada, which supports the exiled former president, Marc Ravalomanana, has been broadcasting since the change of government. Soldiers then went to the location, dismantled its transmitter and seized equipment under communication ministry closure order 01/096mcc of 27 April accusing the station of "inciting civil disobedience and undermining public confidence in institutions."

The decision to bring charges against Ramanantsoavina contradicted an initial statement by communication ministry secretary-general Charles-Aimé Randriamorasata that the authorities had arrested him simply to find out where Radio Mada was broadcasting from.

His arrest just 48 hours after World Press Freedom Day stunned journalists in Madagascar and was immediately condemned by the Order of Madagascan Journalists, which called for his unconditional release.

Aware that Madagascar is currently in a difficult period that has given rise to cases of unprofessional behaviour by some news media, Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call to all the country's journalists to provide responsible, objective news coverage and not take sides in the ongoing political power struggle.

Updates the Radio Mada case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102606

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