Media stakeholders gathered for the first Media Forum in Madagascar

The Media Forum was held in Antananarivo on 27 and 28 November 2014 bringing together representatives from government, media partners, journalists and media professionals and civil society in Madagascar. The stakeholders made important contributions to the preliminary recommendations of an ongoing UNESCO study on the media landscape in the country. These recommendations culminating from a study launched in April 2014 are intended to define the needs of the media in Madagascar. The forum also reviewed the draft communication law (Code de la Communication) that is in the process of being drafted.

The meeting was organized to emphasize the important role of the media sector in the development of Madagascar. Under the high patronage of the President of the Republic and the sponsorship of the Prime Minister, the event is the result of collaboration between the Ministry of Communication, Information and Relations with Institutions (MCIRI) and the United Nations, especially CINU, OHCHR, UNDP and UNESCO. The representative of the United Nations Jaco du Toit, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information in East Africa, reiterated in his speech the will of the UN system to work in close cooperation with the government, journalists and media professionals and civil society to build knowledge societies.

The first day was devoted to the presentation and discussion of the draft report on the evaluation of the media in Madagascar, conducted by UNESCO in partnership with the Department of Interdisciplinary Professional Training of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of the University of Antananarivo.  The study, which is based on the UNESCO Media Development Indicators (MDI) takes into account data collected from 9 major sites in Madagascar. An advisory committee comprising representatives of the written, audiovisual media, civil society, training institutions and the government provided advice to the research team throughout the process. The report's recommendations focus on the legal and regulatory framework, the audiovisual control system, the media as a platform for democratic discourse, vocational training, trade unionism and civil society and the media, and infrastructural capacity of the media.

During the second day of the Forum, the focus was on one of the key instruments of the sector, namely the draft media bill (Code de la Communication). Government representatives, officials, journalists and media professionals as well as civil society discussed and made recommendations, comments and suggestions for improvement of the draft bill. The participants worked in four groups (Radio, TV, press, cultural Industries and ICT) and arrived at a consensus on the need to continue this participatory process, involving various media players in the finalization of the draft media bill.

The representative of the NGO ARTICLE 19 Fatou Jagne reiterated the importance of adhering to international principles relating to the media to ensure freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of media. The Minister of Ministry of Communication, Information and Relations with Institutions Cyrille Mahaforona Reboza reaffirmed the commitment of the Ministry to adopt the draft media Bill in May 2015. During his speech, Tahitsy Gilbert, member of the Club of Journalists representing participants to the forum welcomed the commitment of the authorities.

The event was also honored by the presence of the Prime Minister Kolo Roger who attended part of the discussions on the draft media bill. He reiterated in his message the importance of having the courage to reform the media so that the Malagasy media can be free and independent.