For a poor country like Madagascar, the media landscape can be described as relatively free and diversified, although much less extensive than in Europe. Poverty and illiteracy in Madagascar prevent media use and the possibility of obtaining, understanding and, if necessary, questioning national and global information. Television is one-sided and hardly capable of providing truly independent information. Radio plays a greater role. Regionally, several public, private and church radio stations can be received, but nationwide this applies only to the state station Radio Madagasikara (RNM), which thus plays a central role.
The major daily newspapers Midi Madagasikara, Gazette de la Grande Île and L´Express de Madagascar mostly publish in French, sometimes also in Malagasy. However, there are also many other national and regional newspapers. The sale of daily newspapers or magazines takes place mainly in Antananarivo, with increasing distance to the capital and in remote rural areas one will hardly find newspapers any more.
Reporters Without Borders criticises the increase in self-censorship, harassment and intimidation of reporters and journalists since 2010. There have been isolated attacks on journalists in recent years. The media landscape is generally classified by Freedom House as “partly free” and can therefore be described as relatively open. However, the fact that television stations can be massively banned or put under pressure, as the opposition channel “Viva” did in 2015, worries representatives of press freedom and suggests a certain degree of media control. In the rankings of Reporters Without Borders for freedom of the press, however, Madagascar with 57th place out of 180 shows better media transparency than many other sub-Saharan states. In 2009, Madagascar still ranked 134 out of 175 countries. Under the transition government of Rajoelina, it was not possible to speak of interest-led reporting via the media. After that, the country was only slowly approaching independent reporting again.
Madagascar was one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to receive Internet connectivity. But here, too, the problems of comprehensive media education lie not in limiting the flow of information through censorship, but in problematic access on the part of the population. Only about 4% of Madagascans have the opportunity to use the Internet, although the number has risen significantly in the last few years from 2011-2016. The online portals Madagate, Madonline, Mada.pro, Newsmada, or Madagascar Tribune offer current news.
Human rights and corruption
Human rights have often been violated in Madagascar’s history. Many people died a cruel death under the cruel Queen Ranavalona I, but also during the French colonial period during wars of occupation. The protection of human rights is enshrined in Madagascar’s constitution and is also demanded internationally as a basis for cooperation and development cooperation. But practice often looks different. A national human rights commission set up in Madagascar in 1996 has never functioned properly. In 2009, the human rights situation was particularly bad in the wake of the political crisis. President Rajaonarimampianina, who is currently in office, is working to ensure compliance with international conventions and their implementation. Although the Human Rights Report of 2017 praises overall approaches to improving the human rights situation, it points out that in many areas there are still shortcomings in the implementation of the human rights situation. These include prison conditions in prisons, the violation of children’s rights by the high level of child labour or, in many cases, violent action by the police and security forces in criminal cases.
The treatment of cattle thieves (Daholo) and the fact that perpetrators often go unpunished are described as particularly brutal. The affected regions – mainly in Madagascar’s south – hardly seem to be under state control anymore. Human rights defenders speak of terrorist operations against the population when cattle thieves are suspected among them.
Violations of children’s rights are frequent, mainly in rural areas, where poverty is generally appalling: the number of children working in plantations or quarries is high and often characterised by slave-like conditions. In addition, many girls work in households and are poorly paid, almost a fifth of all girls do not attend primary school, 40% do not attend secondary school. Forced marriages and teenage pregnancies are still too common, and continued child prostitution and child trafficking require effective legal measures. According to UNICEF, factors such as homelessness, malnutrition and lack of access to basic health services have also had a negative impact on the overall living conditions of children.
Although women are equal under the law, they are often subject to discrimination, sexual harassment or rape.
Due to the poor hygienic conditions in Madagascar’s prisons, the plague spread in 2016. The scourge of humanity, which had long since been eradicated, could flare up again here, which is also viewed with concern in medical circles around the world.
Unfortunately, corruption in Madagascar remains high. The country ranked 154 out of 179 countries in Transparency International’s 2017 ranking. Transparency International gives Madagascar a score of 24/100 points (0 = worst, 100 = best), 2008 was the best year so far. It appears that the country is becoming increasingly corrupt, although government programmes have been adopted to combat corruption and improve the functioning of institutions. In 2016, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (Nouvelle Stratégie nationale de lutte contre la corruption = SNLCC) was launched in collaboration with several international and national organisations, including PNUD, CSI (Comité de la Sauvegarde de l´Intégrité), SAMIFIN (Service de Renseignements Financiers de Madagascar) and BIANCO.
The new anti-corruption administration (PAC = Pôle Anti-Corruption) aims to free Madagascar completely from corruption by 2025. Although BIANCO can also report successes, corruption has not improved from 2014 to the present, but rather deteriorated. Time and again, cases of corruption become known among politicians. Corruption is also criticized internationally against the background of the country’s rising poverty. Despite all promises, the population does not believe in an end to corruption and tends to suspect conflicts among corrupt representatives of official bodies if the announced laws – which in addition to prosecuting corruption also reclaim the embezzled funds – are implemented.