Madagascar News- Current Issues and Perspectives

Press Detox: Rajoelina Strives at Misinformation

In Freedom, Terror on June 4, 2009 at 7:00 pm

In the absence of state of law, there are no restrictions on means of information or disinformation issued from the HAT to the entire population, nor on administrative, legal, or executive decisions originating in Madagascar. As the French idiom says “au pays des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois“, now  in this “country of the blind the one-eyed men are kings” and the HAT makes it rain or shine as it pleases to him.

Contrary to the May 29th Rajoelina claim for undisputed leadership as reported by, and elaborated on without reserve by the local press, there is still no clear evidence of such worldwide recognition. Regional press, such as The Guardian and the Citizen converge to report that Rajoelina was granted a meeting with Kaddafi to seek advice upon interventions from France.  The Indian Ocean Newsletter confirms that Sarkozy’s general secretary “pulled out strings” for Kadaffi to meet with Rajoelina. Libyan press was reported being irritated by Rajoelina. As for his meeting with Wade, no statement has been released by Wade’s office before Rajoelina claim, neither there is indication of recognition by the Senegalese reader. Rather, according to a more recent press release from the Cabinet of the Senegalese President,  recommendation was made to Rajoelina to observe the position of the African Union and the International Community, at all times. Wade’s office press release was not elaborated by local media in Madagascar. In fact, if it were not to readers’reactions, it would not have been mentionned.

Undisputed leadership in Madagascar has been taking form surely and progressively. Yesterday, June 3rd, President Ravalomanana was condemned to a four-year jail term in absentia and $ 70 million fines for the purchase of the presidential plane, Air Force One II. Such is the headlines of all major local media. Le Monde, lately quasi silent about Madagascar affairs, has not failed reporting the news. Questions of due process are arising, report Midi Madagascar and Madagascar Tribune.

Major local media report that recently, Rajoelina, the HAT leader, had officially diverted a commercial flight to Dakar in order to meet his business and political needs. Passengers were not informed about the Dakar stopover that caused delays and concerns, and the HAT has not apologized. For the HAT this was due to budget imperatives.

It is not the first time that Rajoelina issues comments that contradict press releases made by foreign members representing the International community in Madagascar conflict resolution attempts. In fact, by now, Rajoelina has been striving at mass misinformation through the support of local media. Although media seem to disapprove of his comments, they show no clear evidence of such; rather confirming in their reports without further verification that Rajoelina, and therefore the HAT, is “recognized” by the “international community.” Examples are endless. The Indian Ocean Newsletter had issued an alert that “contrary to the stories circulated in Antananarivo by certain sources within the High Authority for Transition (HAT), no invitation to go to Morocco has been sent to the President of the HAT, Andry Rajoelina, by King Mohammed VI”.

Other blatant examples are shown in Rajoelina’s consistency at contradicting or denying statements issued by foreign representatives within 24 or 48 hours following conflict resolution meetings. We heard this about his prior agreement to early elections and to his non candidacy to presidential elections, among others.

Misinformation has also been very consistent in the contradiction between political rhetoric profusely diffused in and out of Madagascar and local realities. Key themes claimed in international and local media by Rajoelina and the HAT are democracy, financial order, and freedom of expression. In Madagascar, it translates into arbitrary arrests, a myriad of quick condemnations, a 40-member HAT body, and severely controlled and repressed manifestations as daily reported by local media, and without much consequences.

Rajoelina comments are taken at face value. One wonders if this is cultural since by tradition Malagasies respect authorities, or lack of professionalism or fear of reprisals. Recalcitrant media are subject to being shutting down in Madagascar. Media seem to be allowed to make headlines of what is said to be happening for justification of “respect of freedom of expression”. Content and accuracy become irrelevant where lack of state of law is prevalent and when media want to be able to keep their doors open. The HAT strategy seem to be the “fait accompli”. Media follow suit: key to mass misinformation.

All Africa reports that Ravalomanana would return to Madagascar by June 26. Local media are now covering the cascading condemnations of members of the Ravalomanana administration: another way for the HAT to make Madagascar news headlines.

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