Madagascar: Church radio journalists charged

Regulation & Policy
According to a report from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches on 31 May 2010, concern is mounting for eight radio journalists and technicians detained in Madagascar last week. The eight work for Radio Fahazavana, a church-supported station in the nation's capital, Antananarivo. BBC reports that on Friday the group was formally charged with threatening state security. The radio station has been shut down and its equipment confiscated by government officials. A statement issued by the president and the general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches condemns political actions in the country which are curtailing freedom of expression and threaten the welfare of Malagasy citizens. "We support the prophetic voices seeking to bring justice and reconciliation in Madagascar today," say Clifton Kirkpatrick, President, and Setri Nyomi, General Secretary, in a message sent to churches in 107 countries. Radio Fahazavana is run by the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), a WARC member church. "These journalists must be given full protection while under arrest and allowed a fair and free hearing," says Nyomi. In joining with WARC in expressing concern for the situation, Des van der Water, General Secretary of the Council for World Mission (CWM) writes: "We join with our friends from WARC in condemning this unfair and unjust action against the radio journalists. FJKM are a valued member of both WARC and CWM and we call for the immediate release of the journalists and a safe return to their families. Above all, we pray for a peaceful solution to this current round of violence and that a common sense of humanity will prevail for the welfare of all Madagascans." On Friday, the head of the media office of Swiss Protestant churches and the general secretary of a Swiss church mission service delivered a letter to Madagascar's ambassador to Switzerland expressing surprise that the Radio Fahazavana journalists and technicians had been detained and charged with attempting to destabilize the government. "We have worked with these journalists for a long time," says Michel Kocher, director of Médias-pro and Jacques Küng, general secretary of DM-Echange et Mission in their letter. "We have offered several months of training including a course in media ethics." Kocher and Küng ask the ambassador to transmit to Malagasy authorities their call for respect for freedom of expression in Madagascar. "We are convinced that no government gains credibility by attacking freedom of the press," they write. The arrests come at a time when tensions are running high in Madagascar. On 20 May, Ranaivo Rivoarison, a pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) was shot by government forces. He died from his wounds later in hospital. Several pastors from the church have reportedly gone into hiding. Reports say the eight detainees are journalists Josiane Ranaivo, Solomon Ratsimba, Jaona Olivier, Tiburce Soavinarivo, Philémon Raveloarison, Tiana Maharavo and technicians Andry Randrianasolo and Tsivoho Rakotoson.