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Madagascar’s government ordered a ban on public protests this week, a move critics described as the latest effort by authorities to stifle dissent ahead of the presidential elections this coming November, Al Jazeera reported.
Officials announced that no political protests would be allowed in public but they can take place in “an enclosed place” to maintain public order.
The announcement came a day after authorities raided the offices of a local newspaper and arrested its owner, Lola Rasoamaharo, on charges of defamation and extortion.
Government critics denounced the ban on demonstrations and Rasoamaharo’s arrest, and said they serve as examples of recent crackdowns on dissent on the island nation of 29 million people ahead of the presidential vote.
President Andry Rajoelina is expected to seek re-election.
Last year, Reporters Without Borders ranked Madagascar 98th out of 180 countries on its press freedom index.
That summer, police arrested two opposition leaders as hundreds of people protested on the streets of the capital against rising living costs and economic problems.
The African country’s plight has been further exacerbated by two devastating cyclones in recent months: More than two dozen died and tens of thousands were left homeless when Cyclone Cheneso hit the island in January. Later in March, Cyclone Freddy ripped through Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar, killing more than 220 people and displacing almost 60,000.
Elsewhere in Africa, Sierra Leone imposed a similar ban on political street protests ahead of the general elections in June, citing security concerns, according to Africanews.