Mauritania: Mauritians Strongly Endorse Media Freedom and Public Access to Govt Information

Most citizens want a media that helps hold government accountable.

Key findings

  • Close to nine in 10 Mauritians (86%) say the media should "constantly investigate and report on government mistakes and corruption."
  • A similarly strong majority (84%) support media freedom, while only 12% think the government should have the right to prevent the publication of things it disapproves of.
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of citizens say the country's media is "somewhat" or "completely" free to report and comment on the news without government interference, while 35% disagree.
  • About half (48%) of Mauritians say that information held by public authorities should be shared with the public, while 39% think such information is for the exclusive use of government officials. o Regarding specific types of information, large majorities say the public and the media should have access to information about budgets and expenditures for local government councils (92%), bids and contracts for government-funded projects and purchases (87%), and the salaries of teachers and local government officials (70%).
  • Television and radio are the most popular sources of news in Mauritius, used at least "a few times a week" by 96% of citizens. The Internet (82%) and social media (81%) beat out newspapers (58%) as regular news sources.

Article 12 of the Mauritian Constitution enshrines citizens' freedom of expression, including the right to "receive and impart ideas and information without interference" (Limpitlaw, 2021). But despite this provision, the country's media freedom climate is less than robust (United Nations, 2023).

In 2017, the police arrested three journalists (later released on bail) for publishing a scathing report implicating then-Attorney General Ravi Yerrigadoo in a money-laundering scandal (Reuters, 2017; Freedom House, 2018). In 2018, the government amended the Information and Communication Technologies Act to punish online content that is considered offensive or defamatory with up to 10 years in prison, a move that critics say imposes restrictions on media freedom by extending censorship and control (Reporters Without Borders, 2018). After a decade-long wait, the Freedom of Information Act is yet to be passed (African Media Barometer, 2018; Ramsamy, 2023).

Media activists argue that the lack of access-to-information laws, amendments to broadcasting legislation that threaten confidential information and limit investigative journalism, the arbitrary arrest of journalists, sanctions against some private radio stations considered to be hostile toward the government, and the instrumentalisation of the police for political motives all contribute to a constrained media environment and weaken the country's democracy (Kasenally, 2022; Khan, 2022). In 2023, Mauritius fell to 63rd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index rankings, down from 56th place in 2020 (Reporters Without Borders, 2023).

What are Mauritians' perceptions and evaluations of their media scene?

The most recent Afrobarometer survey findings show that Mauritians overwhelmingly agree that the media should act as a watchdog over the government, constantly investigating and reporting on government mistakes and corruption.

Citizens value media freedom and reject the notion that government should be able to prevent publications it disapproves of. And most citizens say the public and the media should have access to information held by public authorities, such as budgets and contracts. A solid majority of Mauritians believe that media freedom exists in practice in their country.

Television and radio are the most popular news sources in Mauritius, but the Internet and social media also play a vital role, regularly providing news to more than eight in 10 citizens.

Asafika Mpako Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa

Stephen Ndoma Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa

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