From our partners in the Madagascar Mission Network
Urgent Alert: FJKM Staff Detained
Ms. Tantely Rakotoarivony and at least six other people have been detained in connection with the alleged seizure of Radion'ny Gasy, an unlicensed radio station in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. Ms. Rakotoarivony is the Director of TOPAZA, the orphanage operated by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s partner, the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM). Security forces loyal to the de facto Malagasy government, which seized power in a coup d’etat in March 2009, claim to have discovered broadcasting equipment at the orphanage on 19 February, the same day that the regime blocked the return to Madagascar of the democratically elected President, Marc Ravalomanana, who has been in exile in South Africa for nearly two years.
The arrests come against the backdrop of growing efforts by the de facto government to stifle free speech and popular calls for a return to constitutional democracy. The current regime has repeatedly refused to adhere to internationally brokered multiparty peace agreements, despite taking part in the negotiation of these accords. It has closed more than 80 independent radio stations and other media outlets over the past year – including the FJKM station, Radio Fahazavana – in a bid to silence opposition.
The official rationale for the closure of independent stations is that they are not licensed. However, the government’s actions make it clear that it is not prepared to countenance the broadcasting of independent or critical perspectives. A media statement issued by the de facto government names the President of the FJKM, the Rev. Lala Rasendrahasina, as directly responsible for authorizing the alleged placement of equipment at TOPAZA. This has raised fears that the government intends to target the FJKM leadership. Many pastors have been in hiding at various times to avoid arrest for calling for democracy and justice.
What you can do:
Please pray for the release of Tantely Rakotoarivony and imprisoned journalists and pro-democracy activists, as well for the safety and protection of those who are living in fear or in hiding. Pray also for courage and wisdom for the leaders and members of the FJKM as they seek to speak truth to power, and for a peaceful and just resolution of Madagascar’s political crisis that respects the will of the Malagasy people.
Please write to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (see State Dept. address below) to urge the US government to express its grave concern about the suppression of free speech in Madagascar and to emphasize the seriousness with which it views the detention of religious leaders. Ask the US government to step up efforts to work with African leaders to secure a democratic, peaceful and expeditious end to Madagascar’s political crisis. Please also send copies of your letter to:
The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Amb. Johnnie Carson (US Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520);
Rep. Chris Smith, Chair, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, 2373 Rayburn House Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20515
Sen. Christopher Coons, Chair, Subcommittee on African Affairs, 383 Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510.
2 March 2011