Last Sunday at exactly 10.00am Madagascar time , I was informed by a close friend that ALL the prisoners detained in the prison of Tsiafahy have escaped. I was horrified hearing such news because Tsiafahy is known as the most important prison of “high security” in Madagascar. Most of the prisoners who are detained there, are dangerous criminals sentenced to death or to long term detentions. It is also the prison of almost all the “political” prisoners who have been convicted to crime and attempt against the security of Madagascar during the crisis of 2002. In the beginning, I thought it was a joke, but after phone calls to some “VIPs”, I got the confirmation: they broke the prison of Tsiafahy.
I immediately called a friend who works for a local TV station and asked him to investigate. Meanwhile, I tried to contact all of my friends and relatives to advise them to stay at home and to be vigilant.
At 02.00pm Madagascar time, my friend made his first report: 14 inmates have escaped. I felt released when I heard that: 14 escapees can not set the whole city on fire, I told to myself.
Finally, at 03.30pm, a friend who works for another local TV station called me: he told me that actually 21 prisoners have gone away.
21 … 14 … all prisoners … what was the truth? There was clearly a problem of information. One thing was sure at 100%: the prison of Tsiafahy was broken. Who did it? The inmates themselves? Were there “collateral damages” within the neigbourhood and the agents in charge of the custody of the prison? Did they have weapons? How did they manage to escape? There were several questions which remained unanswered because no TVs, no radios, no written press knew what really happened.
There is a real problem of communication, as I stated earlier because starting from 10.00am to 07.00pm, no TVs, no radios reported the event.
It then means that almost everybody knew nothing about the danger till TVM (Madagascar National TV) announced it at 07.00pm.
Why such silence? Is it because of a lack of professionalism from private Malagasy journalists? Is it due to an “imposed” silence from public medias and TVs and radios which follow the political tendancy of the Malagasy State?
A good journalist, as far as I know, is a person who always seek for any news, and who straightly reports them to the public. Such duty has to be done regardless to any political membership.
I have the feeling that journalists from public medias and medias which follow the governemental trend, knew the event at the same time or before me. I suspect that they all had been obliged to keep the news silent, in order to maintain the public order and to avoid any massive move of panic. If it is really the truth, I consider such decision as completely irresponsible and even criminal. Criminal because Malagasy citizens have also the right to protect themselves against any threat; how can you protect yourself and your loved ones if you do not even know the danger you face? The right to be informed about any move which can lead to any sort of good or bad consequence to their lives, is an immutable right which belongs to any free citizen throughout the world. It is the duty of the State to assure and to guarantee the protection and the promotion of such duty.
Private medias through showing incompetence in their works, contribute in this mess.
The Malagasy State with its hundred of corrupted police forces, has already failed to protect its citizens. The Malagasy State with its hundred of incompetent prison guards, has failed to do appropriately their jobs through letting dangerous criminals fading away. What’s next? At least, the Malagasy State should let its citizens to be informed on time about any danger which can freighten their lives.