The Ministry of Interior registered 60 new religious groups during the year, bringing the total to approximately 220 officially registered groups. During the year, the Ministry of Interior approved all requests received and, in some cases, it allowed associations to start operating before officially approving their request.
The government required a permit for all public demonstrations, including religious events such as outdoor worship services. Contrary to previous years, there were no reports that the government denied any religious groups these permits, including the FJKM, which had reported such denials in the past.
Opposition radio stations that the former de facto regime had closed remained off the air. This included FJKM-sponsored Radio Fahazavana, despite legal actions by the FJKM to reopen it. The Ministry of Communications catalogued radio stations that the de facto regime had closed. By year’s end, however, the new government had not issued a decision on allowing any opposition stations, including Radio Fahazavana, to reopen. Because of linkages between that station and the political opposition, it was difficult to classify the state’s inaction in reopening the station as an instance of religious intolerance.
Some members of the Muslim community noted a general improvement in their ability to worship. Muslim leaders attributed the improvements in part to increased representation in government (which included two ministers, six members of the national assembly, and at least one ministerial chief of staff who were Muslim) following the 2013 democratic elections. The Muslim community built several new mosques and, contrary to previous years, community leaders reported local authorities demonstrated greater willingness to issue official documents with Arabic-sounding names. According to several civil society groups, however, obtaining official documentation occasionally remained a problem for Muslims.
Due to their particular settlement history and mixed marriages over time, Muslims remained negatively affected by the country’s nationality code, which restricted children born of Malagasy mothers and foreign national fathers from obtaining citizenship. While there were no official figures on statelessness, a study by NGO Focus Development and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which sampled residents in largely Muslim communities, estimated that approximately 6 percent of individuals in the communities surveyed were stateless. Of this number, more than 85 percent were born in the country.
Decisions by local authorities occasionally impeded the ability of some religious groups to practice their faith. For example, in one town, the chief of district decreed that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were market days, making it financially prohibitive for both Christian and Muslim vendors to attend their respective religious services. Religious leaders also stated that inadequate government enforcement of labor laws resulted in some employers requiring their employees to work during religious services.
State-run Malagasy National Television continued to provide free broadcasting to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and to Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians on weekends, along with the Muslim community once a week. During Ramadan, the Muslim community was able to purchase additional airtime.