RSF deplores online harassment of four Mauritian journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the cyber-harassment to which at least four journalists critical of the government have been subjected since the start of November in Mauritius and calls on the authorities to punish those responsible.

The four journalists, who filed a complaint with the police on 10 November saying they fear for their safety, are Nawaz Noorbux, the news director of privately-owned Radio Plus, two of his presenters, Jean-Luc Émile and Al-Khizr Ramdin, and Krish Kaunhye, the director of privately-owned Top FM radio.

Most of the attacks, which describe the four journalists as having links with drug traffickers, are being made on three Facebook accounts that usually carry pro-government content. Noorbux reports that he is also being subject to other online threats and intimidation, especially from some well-known governmental politicians.

“Online attacks against journalists have increased in Mauritius. We call on the authorities to immediately open an investigation, identify and punish those responsible, and thereby put an end to these online harassment campaigns.”

Sadibou Marong
The head of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

The names of Noorbux and Kaunhye also appear on a list of “25 people to be arrested,” dated 7 November, that was supposedly sent to police stations. The Sunday Times, an online newspaper linked to the opposition labour party, published it on 8 November and it has been circulating on social media since then.

Sunday Times editor Zahira Radha told RSF she published the list because she thought it was “sufficiently serious and disturbing” and the public needed to be warned. “This list is clearly intended to intimidate or silence members of certain media,” she added. “It threatens the safety of independent journalists who are simply doing their job.”

The police have denied the list’s authenticity and say it was not issued by them. Kaunhye said the police commissioner assured him that no such list existed, and that the commissioner had insisted on the importance of the safety of journalists.

Noorbux told RSF he regarded the list as part of a “smear campaign that is liable to intensify if the police do nothing.” He linked the threats against him and his radio station to its frequent investigative reporting on the government’s actions.

Radio Plus recently reported that the head of telecommunications was pressured into resigning after refusing to award a contract to a certain foreign company. The radio station also published a copy of the report of an inquest into the death of a former ruling party member whose murder was initially portrayed by the police as a suicide.

Referring to the threats, Noorbux said: “They went so far as to publish my photo and those of three other journalists standing alongside a suspected drug dealer. They also wrote that I will soon be in prison. Days have passed since our complaint, but the authorities have taken no action.”

Emile said he felt that was in danger, explaining that he had learned that a “raid” is to be carried out on his home in order to prevent him from continuing with his radio programmes.

Relations between the authorities and the media have become quite tense. A journalist with a weekly publication said the government was seen as the independent media’s leading detractor. “The independent media cannot be in the government’s good graces when they are exposing the abuses and corruption that are infesting institutions, and the flaws in the system,” she said.

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