Harish Chundunsing

[Harish Chundunsing] Ses mémoires de la presse : Amended ICT Act, will " La Sentinelle" stand up and be counted ?

Rédigé par Harish Chundunsing le Samedi 10 Novembre 2018

Harish Chundunsing est l'un des piliers du journalisme d'investigation à Maurice, il a officié dans plusieurs rédactions, du Mauricien jusqu'au Matinal. Il a formé ou contribué à la formation de toute une génération de journalistes. Les opinions exprimées par l'auteur sont les siennes et n'ont rien à voir avec Zinfos Moris. Zinfos Moris le publie dans le droit de la liberté d'expression et d'informations que les journalistes réclament sans à juste titre !

The recent amendments to the ICT Act assented by Ag President Vayapoory should be of concern to the Mauritian press.

I am surprised by the absence of agressive reaction from our local press. There was a time during the '80s when the local press would have created a huge hue and cry if such a legislation was introduced.

The Mauritian press led one of its biggest battle in April 1984 when the government led by sir Anerood Jugnauth tried to stifle the freedom of the press by introducing a law which wold have required every newspaper to furnish a surety of Rs 500 000 before being allowed to publish!
Forty-four journalists courted arrest during a sit-in in front of the Government House in 1984.

I was the youngest among the lot. I was then 20.

We were all released on parole and we had to be bailed out next morning. We were all slapped with the provision of the defunct Public Order Act. This act which has been repealed didn't allow for fines. Imprisonment was mandatory for the accused if found guilty.

The Mauritian press organised an international campaign against the bill. The Mauritius Union of Journalists mobilised the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists. The Commonwealth Press Union was alerted by Sydney Selvon. Reporters Sans Frontières ealso got involved. They all petitioned government and denounced the undemocratic provisions of the new proposed law.

Sir Aerood Jugnauth was foolhardy but he had to give in to public pressure. He appointed a committee chaired by late sir Maurice Rault to review the law. The comité national de presse was set up. It recommended the pruning of the law..The surety ws broght down too Rs 250 000  and an undertaking by the editor of the paper would suffice.

Sir Maurice commented:
''Malgré mon admiration pour les kamikazes, je ne conseillerai jamais a un gouvernement de kamikazer'!
The message was heard by SAJ and he relented. In fact, the journalists organised forums in different localities and took their case to the public. Forums were organised in Rose - Hill and Goodlands. Among the speakers was Dr Philippe Forget the then editor of l'Express. He led the charge.

So, who will lead the charge this time?

I don't think Mr Eshan Kodarbux of Le Defi Group will do it. He is hand in gloves with sir Anerood Jugnauth. He owes him much. They have gifted him a plot of defence land at Grand River North West where he has erected his Le Defi's headquarters.

Mr Kodarbux was also let off the hooks in the BAI inquiry after he had pocketed more than Rs 30m from the dismantled company without transferring the shares he held in Mediametrix.

Le Mauricien has its own financial problems to grapple with. They are financially vulnerable. Jacques Rivet and his nephew Bernard Delaitre  would not like to rub the government in the wrong direction lest State Bank of Mauritiius's financial tap goes dry!

The only glimmer of hope is La Sentinelle. Will they live up to their name of 'La Sentinelle'? Will they take the lead?

Willl they also include of the listed international organisations the New York based strong and influential Commmitte to Protect Journalists?

Its up to the duo Philippe Forget jr and Nad Sivaramen to get their acts together!

Samedi 10 Novembre 2018