- The autonomous government on the Comoran island of Anjouan has suspended the news programme of the island's most popular radio station. The suspension came after the radio station agreed to air the views of Anjouan's striking doctors, following the state radio's decision to censor them. Anjouan is one of three autonomous islands in the Comoros Union.
The island's main radio station, 'Radio Dzialandzé Mutsamudu' (RDM), saw its daily news programme suspended "until further notice" on 13 January, under the orders of Anjouan's autonomous Interior and Information Ministry. The elected island authorities have total powers on their interior policies.
The suspension stemmed from a recent strike by the island's doctors. After Health Minister Fadhula Said Ali expressed his views on the strike on the state-owned 'Radio Télévision Anjouan' (RTA), the doctors wanted to respond, but RTA refused. The doctors then turned to RDM, which allowed them to present their side of the dispute on the air.
In early January, the Interior and Information Minister summoned RDM coordinator Said Ali Dacar Mgazi and an RDM journalist to a meeting with RTA executives to seek an explanation. Shortly thereafter, on 13 January, the Minister issued his suspension order, accusing RDM of producing "programmes that do not conform with [its own] governing statutes and regulations."
When RDM was founded as a community radio station in 1992, it focused on cultural programming, but there is no law preventing it from broadcasting news programmes. Its evening news programme, anchored by Tex Mohamed, covered only international news, particularly developments in the Middle East.
Partnered with the French government-controlled 'Radio France Internationale' (RFI), the Anjouanese radio station is based in Mutsamudu, the Comoran island's capital. Mutsamudu is the second largest city in what is now the Union of Comoros. Anjouan's few media outlets struggle to survive with little funding and despite the strict controls imposed by the island's authorities.
The suspension of RDM today caused the protest from international press freedom groups. The Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontičres (RSF) urged Anjouanese Information Minister Djanffar Salim to allow RDM "to resume broadcasts of this very popular programme as soon as possible."
- This decision is shocking, especially since the news programme dealt mainly with international issues, RSF said in a statement. "Suspending this programme means cutting the island off from the rest of the world and undermining diversity in news reporting, which is essential in a democracy," the group added.
Anjouan unilaterally declared its independence from Comoros in 1997. Following military action and an international blockade of the island, Anjouan authorities negotiated a return to Comoros that included the establishment of the Comoros Union. The Union gives large autonomy to the three main Comoran islands; Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.
After the establishment of the Comoros Union, Anjouan elected its autonomous parliament and President. The political representation on the island mainly reflects the pro-independence groups prior to the union. The groups already showed strong authoritarian tendencies during the time of Anjouan's self-declared independence.
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