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Madagascar: Television station is forced to stop broadcasting

VIVA, one of Madagascar's national television stations, has been ordered by the Minister of Telecommunications to stop broadcasting:

“Suite à la diffusion par la chaîne de télévision Viva d’un enregistrement contenant des propos de l’ancien chef de l’Etat Didier Ratsiraka réfugié en France dans son journal du samedi 13 janvier 2008 vers 20 heures, lesquels propos étant susceptibles de troubler l’ordre et la sécurité publics, la chaîne de télévision Viva est interdite de diffusion.”

“Following VIVA television station's 8 o clock news broadcast of a recording of a talk by the former president Didier Ratsiraka, now a refugee in France, a talk which may disturb public order and security, the television station is prohibited from broadcasting.”

The mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina is the 30-something owner of VIVA, as well as of other highly successful firms, such as Injet, a communications firm, and Domapub, a highly successful advertising agency, headed by his wife, Mialy Razakandisa, a member of a prominent family.

Rajoelina, known locally as Andry TGV, was elected Mayor of Antananarivo with 63% of the vote in 2007, winning the elections against President Marc Ravalomana's protege, Hery Rafalimanana.  Andry TGV, whose resume uncannily resembles the President's – no college or formal education, but a keen entrepreunerial spirit that has resulted in successful business ventures, difficult relations with the government, a run for mayor - has been at odds with the President and the government ever since his victory.

Last week, the tensions between the mayor and the president were high when VIVA, the mayor's television station, broadcast musings and ramblings by Didier Ratsiraka, the former president of Madagascar, after showing the former presidential picture of Ratsiraka for several minutes, a move criticized by some. Ratsiraka was ousted in 2002, after controversial election results in which both he and Ravalomanana, then the Antananarivo mayor, claimed victory. After a long street protest, blockades by citzens, and the endorsement of Ravalomanana by Western powers, with the noted exception of the then French President, Jacques Chirac, Ratsiraka was forced to take refuge in France. The controversial video shows Ratsiraka harshly criticizing Ravalomanana and is available in Malagasy on dailymotion.com.

Mialisenfout thinks the government must be joking and quotes a minister, Bruno Andriantavison, who once said:

“Les libertés d’opinion et d’expression n’ont jamais été interdites du moment qu’elles respectent les règles du jeu”

“Freedom of speech has never been hindered as long as the rules of the game are respected”

Tomavana comments :

“Sky FM [Toamasina], Feon’i Toamasina [Toamasina], Karajia [émission quotidienne de la Radio Don Bosco, Antananarivo] … maintenant VIVA TV … à qui le tour ?”

“After FM [Toamasina], Feon'i Toamasina [Toamasina], Karajia [the daily show of Radio Don Bosco, Antananarivo]… now VIVA TV… who is next?”

In the same spirit of jest, Jentilisa

titles :”Ary raha… Viva TV dia avy eo Injet sy domaPub ?”

“What if… VIVA TV first, then Injet and domaPub?”

He then ironically lists all the actions that TGV will take to mobilize the citizens in the capital, Antananarivo, wondering if they will guard him, as they guarded Ravalomanana's home against foreign mercenaries hired by Ratsiraka in 2002.

“Entanin'ingahy amin'izay ny vahoakan'Antananarivo hiambina ny takelaby fanaovana ny dokambarotr'ingahy betsaka sady mbola mahabetsaka ireny ihany. Tena mahavita izany mihitsy ny mponina'Antananarivo tahaka ny niambenana ny teny Faravohitra ka! aza manahy mihitsy ingahy. Ary aza matahotra fa tsy maintsy ho lasa filoham-pirenena ingahy ka! Fa aleo aloha izaho hitondra ka! Mbola tsy ampy taona hitondra ingahy tsinona!”

“You will mobilize the Antananarivo population to guard communications wires enabling your ads. The Antananarivo population is capable of doing this, as it did guard Faravohitra (note of the author: Faravohitra is Ravalomanana's neighborhood and he still resides there.). Do not fear. And do not worry as you will become president one day! But for now let me be the president. As you do not yet fulfill the age requirements!”

There have also been lively discussions about Ratsiraka on serasera.org, an online forum, although nobody seems to miss the Ratsiraka era :

“Ny alika no miverina @'ny efa naloany sy ny forongony… Zahay koa efa LEOn'ny nilaha-bary teny @'ny fokontany sy ny Magasin M, ny nilahatra ankisisika bus FIBATA manginy fotsiny, ny kitapo zara raha mahita kitapo tsihy hovidiana, ny cahier kitra kotsan'ny orana… Zany rehetra izany tamin'ny andron-dRatsiraka (1980-1989). Mora manadino ny gasy a!!!!… Amin'izao fotoana mba mahita beurre TIKO hovidiana ihany…”

“Only dogs return to their vomit…We are FED UP with lining up for rice at the fokontany and state stores, of lining up to squeeze ourselves in the state buses, of barely finding schoolbags to purchase, of schoolbooks that are soaked with rain… This was our lot during Ratsiraka's era (1980-1989). We Malagasies have a short memory!!!!… Nowadays we can find TIKO butter to buy…”

Ironically, during the same week, the government organized a meeting with all Malagasy political parties, opponents included. The agenda of the December 17 meeting was to permit the free exchange of ideas among political players, and resulted in a proposal to change the laws regulating political parties.  According to the website of the President, the modifications aim to reinforce political parties and permit them to participate more effectively in the development of Madagascar.  The government had commissioned a report on how to reform the regulations regarding the financing and merging of political parties, which in Madagascar currently number in the hundreds. It is noteworthy that this report was produced by two former opponents: Serge Radert and Serge Zafimahova, both ministers during the presidency of Zafy Albert. Zafy Albert is now a rabid Ravalomanana opponent. During the meeting, about 400 million ariary (US$ 218773.53) were distributed among the fifty attending party leaders. About thirty political parties declined to attend.

Serge Radert and Serge Zafimahova later issued a press release on their motivations to write the report and their caveats. They seem not to agree on the use of their report during the December 17 political meeting and already appeared to distance themselves from the results of the meeting. The press release emphasizes:

“nous avons évoqué notre attachement à la liberté d’expression et au libre débat et nous avons évoqué, en particulier, notre ferme condamnation à toute forme de censure et à toute fermeture de médias audiovisuels et de presse écrite, en particulier au niveau de l’actualité, nous avons jugé inopportun la fermeture de la télévision VIVA.”

“we have evoked our attachment to freedom of speech and free debate and have spoken, in particular, of our firm opposition to any form of censorship and closing of media, in particular, as it relates to current news, we have judged inopportune the closing of the VIVA television station.”

The tensions are now at the highest, Andry TGV said there were orders arrest him for “fa namory olona mpanao politika tsy nahazoana alalana tetsy @ La Rotonde ingahy ben'ny tanana,” “rallying political people without authorization at the hotel La Rotonde.” The government later firmly denied this and Zombia wondered if Andry TGV was intentionally spreading false rumors.

“Hosamborina i TGV eh
Ohatry ny feo nampatsiahy ahy ilay hoe :”Voapoizina i Hasina eh” na ilay hoe “hosamborina i Zafy eh”
Resaka hanentanam-po ny olona fotsiny, fa ny ol vao mijery hoe iza avy no mpanohitra dia aleo indray miverina mody manidy trano. Fa miandry fotoana ny zavatra rehetra
Iza no mahita raha sarinady anakonana ny fanomezana ny tany 1.000.000 ha ho an'ny Daewoo, sy ny 250.000 ha ho an'ny Indianina fotsiny io”

“TGV will be arrested ! This rumor reminds me of others : They will arrest Hasina and Zafy (Hasina and Zafy are opponents of the current president). This is just to motivate people to go demonstrate, but we all look at who the opponents are and we would rather go back home and close our doors. All things have their due time. who knows if this warring play is just to hide the free giving of one million hectares of land to Daewoo, or the 250 thousand hectares to the Indians”.

The arm wrestling continues. During interviews broadcast by no less than three radio stations, Andry TGV then issued an ultimatum, expiring on January 13, for the defense of “freedom of speech and democracy” against the government. But Jentilisa comments :

“paika entina hampakarana ny maripana izany zandry mba hivononan'ny olona hitokona amin'ny voalohan'ny taona a! jereo ange fa saiky nifanitsy tamin'ilay nosoratako tamin'ny lahatsoratro halina hoe ho avy amin'ny fiambenana indray izany ny mponin'Antananarivo eee!”

“this is a tactic to heighten the temperature, so people would demonstrate during the beginning of the year ! If you look closely, it all aligns with what I wrote last night about getting Antananarivo residents to guard him and his ad agency!”

If everybody feels like News2Dago and Jentilisa, the alleged tactics may not be enough to drag the demonstration-weary population of Antananarivo into the streets:

“Izaho kosa hitazan-davitra ihany fa tsy misy hidirako ny @ izay satria tsy misy hanome ahy ariary na ny andaniny na ny ankilany ny ahy any am-paosiko aza no manaraka @ fandoavaka 6% @ impôt synthetique ho an'Ingahy ben'ny tanana ary ny hetra TVA homena an'i ra8 hozaraina @ ireo mpisolelaka mpanao pôlitika omena 400 tapitrisa ariary be izao (vola be hono no nozaraina teny Mavoloha teny t@ 17 izany adalan'ireo izay tsy te hankeny).”

“I will look from afar, this is none of my business, as neither side will give me a cent, and both are making me pay: an artificial 6% tax to the Mayor, and added value tax for the President to collect 400 millions of ariary to distribute to the sycophantic politicians who attended the Dec 17 meeting at Mavoloha. Only fools did not go to that meeting!”

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