Mauritius: Mass media

Updated May 2010

Extracted from: Rouikaya Kasenally 2009 "Chapter 8: Mauritius" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 284.

The media in Mauritius reflect the democratic and pluralistic tradition of the Mauritian society. However, in 2008 a number of incidents (arrest of journalists, storming of the police into the premises of a local private radio station) caused the country to drop 21 places on the Global Media Freedom Index (see Reporters without Borders Reports, 2007 and 2008).

The written media are known to be free and independent. Despite a general setting that promotes freedom, the press can be sued for defamation, libel and sedition. The Mauritian broadcast media have undergone some changes since 2001 with the introduction of private commercial radio stations. Prior to this the broadcast landscape was dominated and monopolised by one public service broadcaster - the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). The Mauritius Broadcasting Act of 1982 provides for broadcasting by radio and television but the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act, 2000, provides for the liberalisation of the airwaves. A number of private radio stations have emerged and efforts are being made by local broadcast specialists to liberalise the television networks. The MBC's lack of impartiality and independence has been a source of concern and this has been an ongoing issue of the post-independent broadcast media landscape.

For the purpose of election campaigns, formal political broadcasts accessible through the MBC are well codified and time allocations are worked out in consultation with stakeholders. Time allocation is based on two criteria, namely the number of seats held in the outgoing parliament and the number of candidates fielded. In general, one can say that political parties have access to major media outlets, although the issue of 'equitable access' is more difficult to ascertain especially when it comes to smaller extra-parliamentary parties who feel that they are marginalised by this deal. The introduction of private commercial radio has to a certain extent enlarged the 'democratic' access to political parties and has provided an outlet for the public to express its views and opinions. In the most recent general elections, private radios broadcast a number of debates with key political contenders on a broad set of themes and the public were invited to phone in.

The press and especially the mainstream press usually offer a balanced, relatively impartial and independent coverage during elections. In fact, most of the political parties are given a fair hearing and adequate coverage.

Media regulation 2010 election

For the 2010 National Assembly election the Independent Broadcasting Authority handed down a "Political Broadcasts and Party Election Broadcasts General Guidelines for Private and Public Broadcasters: General Elections 2010", prefaced with the instruction: "Broadcasting licensees shall ensure that these Guidelines are strictly adhered to by their employees and agents, and, wherever applicable, their interviewees".

Official website

Independent Broadcasting Authority: [www] http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/iba [opens new window] (accessed 18 May 2010).

News websites

L'Express [www] http://www.lexpress.mu/ [French; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

Le Mauricien [www] http://lemauricien.com/mauricien/index.html [French; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

Mauritius News [www] http://mauritius-news.co.uk/ [English; opens new window] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation [www] http://mbc.intnet.mu/ [English and French; opens new window] (accessed 18 May 2010).

References

MAURITIUS BROADCASTING CORPORATION ACT, 1982.

INDEPENDENT BROADCASTING AUTHORITY 2010 "Political Broadcasts and Party Election Broadcasts General Guidelines for Private and Public Broadcasters: General Elections 2010", 7 April, [www] http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/iba/file/Doc-2010-04-12-%20Guidelines%20Genral%20Elections%202010.pdf [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 18 May 2010).

INDEPENDENT BROADCASTING AUTHORITY ACT 2000, [www] http://www.icta.mu/documents/laws/iba.pdf [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 18 May 2010).