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Madagascar police interrogate journalists as part of criminal investigation

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned by this week's arbitrary arrests of two journalists on the northwestern resort island of Nosy-be.

Serge Razanaparany, a cameraman with state radio and TV (RNM and TVM), was detained and questioned by the local police on 6 October. Jeanette Ravonimbola of privately-owned Radio Tsiko Meva Ylang was questioned yesterday.

They are among the many people who have been arrested by the police investigating the lynching of three men accused of killing a boy whose body was found on a beach on 2 October.

After being arrested at his home, Razanaparany was taken to the local branch of TVM where he was told to collect the footage he shot during lynching. He was then taken to police headquarters where he was interrogated. The police did not produce arrest or search warrants at any time.

“We firmly condemn the arrests of these two journalists, for which there was no justification,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Seizing and examining raw video footage constitutes a very disturbing violation of the confidentiality of journalists' sources and material, especially when it is not subject to any control by the courts.

Reporters Without Borders added: “Journalists are not supposed to act as police auxiliaries. This attempt by the Madagascan authorities to use journalistic sources in a criminal investigation violates freedom of information.”

The police said they have orders to detain those who were present during the mob lynching and those who have photos or video of the event. As Razanaparany and Ravonimbola were present, they were automatically suspected of having what they police describe as “evidence.”

While Madagascan law does not explicitly guarantee the confidentiality of journalists' sources, this investigation violates Madagascar's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which accords journalists certain guarantees including the right to the confidentiality of their sources.

The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the ICCPR, recently pointed out that states that are parties to the accord should “recognise and respect that element of the right of freedom of expression that embraces the limited journalistic privilege not to disclose information sources” (Paragraph 45, General Comment No. 34, CCPR/c/gc/34).

Madagascar is ranked 88th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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