International media rights body Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned an arson attack at the premises of a pro-opposition weekly in the Seychelles.
The attack took place on Friday last week and damaged the printing press of the weekly newspaper, Regar.
Léonard Vincent of the RSF expressed concern, saying it was the first instance of a physical attack on the press reported from the Indian Ocean archipelago. "According to what we have been told by Regar, the attack seems to have been politically motivated, and they have been receiving threats in the past."
The editor of Regar, Roger Mancienne, who is also secretary-general of the opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP), told IRIN that the attack came "when the political climate is getting a bit tense" ahead of the presidential elections to be held before the first week of August 2006.
He claimed that the SNP and the newspaper had been targeted by the ruling Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) at its recent political rallies, after the weekly exposed an alleged corrupt property deal implicating a senior member of the SPPF.
Rene Morel, communications advisor in President James Michel's office, denied that the government or the ruling party had played any part in the arson attack. "He [Mancienne] is a member of the opposition - these claims are expected of him," he told IRIN.
The fire damaged the press but the cooling system prevented it from spreading to the entire building. A piece of cloth soaked in kerosene was found in the debris. Mancienne said the press will be operational soon.
Regar has quite often been sued for libel by the government.
Since one-party rule was abolished in 1993, freedom of speech has improved in the islands, where government controls much of the media, including the only daily newspaper, radio and TV station.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions