In Madagascar, human rights defenders working on environmental rights including against illegal trafficking of natural resources, such as rosewood, and against extractive activities, are particularly at risk. HRDs are targeted by authorities with judicial prosecution, arrest, and trumped-up charges. Furthermore, human rights defenders are singled out by extractive companies and traffickers for their efforts to hold companies and industries accountable to basic human rights and environmental standards.
Although illegal trafficking of natural resources is common and although members of natural resources trafficking rings are often well-known, they are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. This is the case even if they have been proven to be engaged in illegal activities such as the destruction and exploitation of large tracts of rosewood forests or the trafficking of turtle species. In order to avoid prosecution, those involved in trafficking of natural resources are often able to bribe police, prison guards and politicians to evade punishment.
Moreover, members of the political elite in Madagascar are sometimes involved with illegal trafficking themselves, or they turn a blind eye when extractive industries or traffickers exploit the bountiful natural resources on the island. HRDs working in Madagascar confront impunity in many different facets of their work, and this hinders their capacity to work for the promotion of human and environmental rights.
Furthermore, HRDs working in journalism are often targets of judicial harassment which result in protracted legal proceedings. Defamation cases are common for those reporting on government activities, and the Code of Communication, adopted in July 2016, bans criticism of government officials or members of state security forces. Additionally, it allows for new powers for judges to permit raids on media houses and for the confiscation of materials for the vaguely described, press infraction which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Due to these factors, HRDs working in journalism in Madagascar often practice self-censorship.