Ahead of the next appeals hearing in the case involving Malagasy environmental human rights defender Jeannot Randriamanana scheduled for 14 June 2022, the global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the authorities to drop all charges against him and stop persecuting human rights defenders.
Jeannot was sentenced to two years in prison by the Criminal Court of Mananjary on 17 March 2022 on charges of defamation and humiliating members of parliament and public servants, and "identity fraud" under the Cyber Criminality Law (Article 20) and the Penal Code (Article 258) respectively.
He was arrested and charged after expressing concerns on social media over the fact that the Malagasy authorities did not respond promptly with humanitarian assistance to communities affected by cyclones that hit parts of the country in February 2022. He called out the authorities for failing to redeem their promises to provide needed aid to the districts of Nosy Varika and Mananjary and accused them of mismanaging humanitarian aid. Jeannot is a human rights defender and communications officer for the Observatoire Indépendant des Droits Économiques, Sociaux et Culturels à Madagascar (OIDESCM), a civil society organisation working on economic, social and cultural rights. Jeannot particularly works to promote the right to information and good governance in Madagascar.
"The judicial persecution and arbitrary detention of Jeannot Randriamanana exemplify how the Malagasy authorities target human rights defenders and activists for raising concerns over issues affecting citizens with the aim of silencing them. The charges against him are fictitious, and the authorities should drop all the charges when his appeal is heard on 14 June and release him," said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.
On 10 May 2022, he was granted provisional release from prison at the Maison Centrale de Mananjary, where he was detained and due to attend an appeal hearing on his case scheduled for 14 June 2022. He has been a victim of threats, smear campaigns and attacks in the past for raising concerns over the lack of infrastructural development and condemning corruption.
Madagascar has a history of targeting whistleblowers, activists, human rights defenders and environmental rights defenders for raising concerns over the state of human rights, corruption and the exploitation of land and environmental resources by state and non-state actors. In recent years, the authorities have increased the repression of activists and human rights defenders. In 2021 human rights defender and President of the Union of Nurses and Midwives in Madagascar was arrested and interrogated by the authorities for advocating for paramedics' rights and better working conditions. In addition, human rights defender Clovis Razafimalala has been subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions since 2016 for defending environmental rights and advocating against the illegal exploitation and trafficking of rosewood in Madagascar.
Madagascar is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks civic space conditions across the globe.