Madagascar is characterised by a very rich media landscape that is highly polarised and lacking in independence. Attacks and arrests targeting journalists are quite rare.
Journalists are rarely jailed because of their work. But the communication law revised in 2020 contains several articles which have remained unchanged and refer to the Criminal Code. The fines provided for in the event of “dissemination of false information” are heavier and the possibilities for the authorities to close media or stop programs are quite broad. In 2021, they wanted to ban programs and broadcasts "likely to disturb public order" in a dozen media before finally giving up. The regulatory authority (ANRCM) has still not been created and its prerogatives are ensured by the Ministries of Communication and Culture. The new mode of election of the Order of Malagasy Journalists (OJM) seriously compromises the independence of the organization.
The 2018 presidential election – won by former transition leader Andry Rajoelina – confirmed the marked politicisation of Madagascar’s media, especially the print media, with almost all media outlets siding with one or other of the main candidates. It is common for media outlets to be controlled directly or indirectly by government ministers, parliamentarians or businessmen with close links to politicians. The all-out war waged between media outlets that are political rivals sometimes prompts criminal investigations for disinformation or civil disturbance.
Journalists are rarely jailed because of their work. But a communication law passed in 2016 only partially abolished prison sentences for the most common media offences such as contempt, defamation and “false news.” Succeeding governments have often been tempted to take advantage of the fairly wide range of possibilities to shut down media or ban programmes – as in 2021, when the authorities wanted to ban nine radio and TV programmes for possible civil disturbance before deciding against it.
The precariousness of Madagascar’s media has had a disastrous impact on their independence and the quality of their reporting. Very low salaries leave journalists vulnerable to corruption, including the widespread practice of “felaka” (in which journalists arriving to cover an event receive an envelope containing a few banknotes from the organisers). It is not uncommon for journalists to take on odd jobs and to find themselves in a conflict of interest as a result of working for politicians.
Covering corruption, particularly in the natural resources and environmental sectors, continues to be very difficult for journalists. Religious communities usually have their own media.
Journalists are sometimes subjected to verbal attacks by politicians or smear campaigns on social media but physical attacks are very rare.