Two journalists given SA refuge

SOUTH Africa's embassy in Madagascar has granted refuge to two journalists and a technician from a closed-down opposition radio station following "prolonged harassment", it said.

"The South African embassy confirms that it has decided to give refuge to the journalists in question . because of prolonged and incessant harassment of these journalists and of others as well as the closing of Radio Free FM," the mission said.

It did not name the journalists.

Free FM, whose director Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy is one of the journalists, was the main opposition radio station on the Indian Ocean island.

The station closed down voluntarily in July, citing intimidation by the army following a mutiny.

Rakotondrazafy and one of her journalists had been detained in May for broadcasting criticism of strongman Andry Rajoelina's government.

Once one of Rajoelina's supporters, Rakotondrazafy later accused the interim leader of being just as bad as the man he replaced, Marc Ravalomanana.

Madagascar's foreign ministry confirmed to AFP that it had been informed the two journalists and a technician of Free FM were at the embassy "from August 1".

The island nation has been mired in political crisis since Rajoelina ousted then-president Ravalomanana in 2009 with the army's support.

The two men last year signed a "roadmap" brokered by regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The deal, which was expected to lead to fresh polls next year, has yet to be fully implemented.

South Africa consulted the SADC before granting the journalists refuge, the mission said.

"The political direction of the SADC and its international partners are increasingly worried by the continued harassment of the media and journalists by authorities," said the embassy.

"These unacceptable actions perpetrated by authorities constitute an evident and serious violation [of the roadmap] at the time where the stages and measures of constructive appeasement should be adopted by the parties involved."

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