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[L'image du jour] Harish Chundunsing : Courting arrest for press freedom aged 20 !

Rédigé par E. Moris le Samedi 10 Novembre 2018

Crédit photo: Harish Chundunsing
Crédit photo: Harish Chundunsing
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 This act which has been repealed didn't allow for fines.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. 

Samedi 10 Novembre 2018

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