Mauritius

  1. Mauritius introduces new media rules despite opposition

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    A journalist holds a protest in Mauritius
    Image caption: Private radio stations, opposition MPs and campaign groups had opposed the amendments

    The parliament in Mauritius has passed an amendment bill that seeks to introduce new regulation for independent media despite some opposition.

    The Independent Broadcasting Authority Amendment Bill was passed without amendments on Tuesday night

    It creates an independent broadcasting review panel whose three members are to be appointed by the prime minister. It introduces penalties of up to 500,000 Mauritian rupees ($11,400; £8,600) for violations of the law.

    It also requires private radio stations to renew their licences on a yearly basis instead of three years as has been the case.

    The private radios along with opposition MPs and some campaign groups had opposed the amendments.

    The government said the amendment was in order to provide a better legal framework to regulate the licensed media.

    A Mauritian diaspora organisation has asked the president not to give his assent to the bill which restricts media freedom, amid a plan to challenge the changes in the country’s highest court.

    Mauritius liberalised its airwaves in 2002 and the Independent Broadcasting Authority issued licenses to three private radio stations, putting an end to the state broadcaster’s monopoly.

    However, the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation retains a monopoly on television channels.

  2. Mauritius gets first female chief justice

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Bibi Rehana Mungly-Gulbul

    Mauritus' first female chief justice has been sworn in.

    Bibi Rehana Mungly-Gulbul, 61, was appointed to head the Supreme Court by the president following consultations with the prime minister. It is the highest court in Mauritius.

    After studying law in England, she was called to the bar in 1983 in Wales. In the same year, she returned to Mauritius for private practice.

    She succeeds Asraf Caunhye, who retired after 20 years in the Supreme Court.

    Her deputy will also be a woman, Justice Nirmala Devat.

    Among the 22 judges of the Supreme Court, 15 are women.

  3. Mauritius closes schools amid rise in Covid cases

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    A closed school in Mauritius
    Image caption: All schools in Mauritius have been closed

    Mauritius has closed all schools as the number of Covid cases continue to rise.

    Education Minister Leela Devi Dookhun-Lutchoomun made the announcement in a statement on national television on Tuesday.

    She said all classes would be held online from Thursday.

    The country has recorded 1,856 cases of Covid in learning institutions since 18 October.

    The Indian Ocean island has had a recent surge in the number of Covid deaths, with 42 occurring in the past week and 14 of them aged below 60 years.

    About two-thirds of the Mauritian population have been fully vaccinated

    The health minister on Tuesday told parliament that 61 fully vaccinated people had died in hospitals across the country since January.

    Forty-four of them had received Sinopharm injections, she said.

    The government is encouraging citizens to take a third vaccine dose.

  4. Apple juice recalled from seven African countries

    Ceres juice packets
    Image caption: Ceres juices are distributed in different countries

    Apple juice made by South African firm Ceres has been recalled from seven African countries over high levels of patulin that can cause vomiting and nausea.

    Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by a variety of moulds found in apples and apple products.

    Laboratory tests showed that Ceres juice contained levels higher than the legally allowed 50 microgrammes per litre.

    The juice is sold in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Seychelles and Mauritius.

    The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) competition commission urged consumers to return batches packed between 14 and 30 June 2021.

  5. Mauritius reopens to fully vaccinated tourists

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    Turtle Bay, Mauritius
    Image caption: The beaches of Mauritius are a big draw for travellers

    Mauritius has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated tourists after being closed for 16 months.

    Arriving tourists are being welcomed by local sega dancers at the main airport, where they must show a negative Covid-19 test result.

    No movement restrictions will be imposed on vaccinated visitors.

    Tourism is a big pillar of the Mauritian economy. The pandemic saw many hotels closed for months while others were used as quarantine centres.

    The number of arriving tourists is still low and hotels are say less than than 40% of rooms are booked.

    The island had reported an increase of Covid-19 deaths in previous months. But the government accelerated its vaccination campaign that has seen more than 850,000 of the 1.3 million population vaccinated.

    Students aged between 15 and 17 years have started receiving the jab in learning institutions.

  6. Eight babies catch Covid in Mauritius rescue centre

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Mauritius beach
    Image caption: Mauritius is opening its doors to international travellers despite a Covid surge

    Eight babies and seven staff members at a rescue shelter in northern Mauritius have tested positive for Covid-19.

    The babies, who were all staying in the same room in Cap-Malheureux, were reportedly infected by a staff member.

    Two of them have been taken to a public hospital for treatment.

    A medical team has been dedicated to the babies now in isolation at the shelter, Gender Equality and Family Welfare Minister Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah said.

    Last week, a 15-month-old baby died after she had tested positive for Covid.

    Mauritius has recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases since last month - with 3,043 new cases registered in the first two weeks of September.

    More than 13,000 cases have been recorded since the start of the pandemic - which is more than 1% of the 1.3 million population.

    The Indian Ocean island has recorded 1,005 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, far higher than the continent's average of 598.

    The government has taken the decision to open its door to international travellers, as from 1 October, despite the situation.

    The health ministry has emphasised that the country has “one of the highest full vaccination rates in Africa”.

  7. Mauritius ex-PM flown to India for Covid treatment

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    Former Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam has been moved to India for treatment after he tested positive for Covid-19

    The opposition Labour party leader left Mauritius aboard an air ambulance and arrived in India on Thursday.

    He was transferred from a private clinic by a Mauritian medical team to the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam airport tarmac.

    He has not travelled abroad since 2014, when he lost the general elections and was arrested.

    The Mauritian government has taken on the responsibility for guaranteeing the costs of the medical trip which will subsequently be paid by the Labour party.

    Mauritius has recorded a surge in Covid-19 deaths since last week.

  8. Police foil attempted jail break in Mauritius

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    MV Wakashio captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar
    Image caption: Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, who was the captain of a stricken ship that spilled tonnes of oil in Mauritius' coast, is among prisoners transferred

    A dozen prisoners, among them the captain of the MV Wakashio ship that spilled oil in Mauritius in July last year, have been transferred after an attempted escape.

    Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar had been remanded after being arrested and charged with endangering safe navigation.

    The prisoners at the Petit-Verger prison broke bars and used sheets to make ropes that they used to descend. The prison's surveillance cameras were viewed.

    Four of the prisoners had already managed to get out but quickly turned back when they saw patrol officers coming to their direction.

    The 37 occupants of the two dormitories at the prison were transferred to another facility immediately.

    The Petit-Verger prison had been converted into a treatment centre for prisoners who had tested positive for Covid-19.

    Mr Nandeshwar had been transferred there after testing positive for the virus.

  9. Mauritius lawyer appointed to top UN post

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    Pramila Patten
    Image caption: Pramila Patten once served as an adviser in Mauritius' Ministry of Women’s Rights

    Mauritius lawyer Pramila Patten has been appointed the officer-in-charge of UN Women, an agency which campaigns for gender equality.

    She will oversee the transition at the agency as it finds a successor to South Africa's Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, whose eight-year tenure as executive director is ending.

    Ms Patten has been serving as the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict since April 2017.

    "Ms Patten has deep experience in the field of gender equality and women’s empowerment," UN secretary-general António Guterres said in a statement.

    She was an adviser in Mauritius' Ministry of Women’s Rights from 2000 to 2004, and had also been a barrister in the UK.

  10. Mauritius speaker says MP-shaming remark 'a joke'

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    MP Rajesh Bagwan (left) and Speaker Sooroojdev Phokeer
    Image caption: MP Rajesh Bagwan (left) and Speaker Sooroojdev Phokeer were in a heated debate

    The speaker of parliament in Mauritius has spoken out after criticism for shaming an MP with vitiligo, a condition which causes patches of skin to become lighter.

    The speaker said it was a "joke", regarding his remarks against an opposition legislator during a sitting on Tuesday, which caused widespread uproar.

    "Look at your face!" Speaker Sooroojdev Phokeer had said 11 times to MP Rajesh Bhagwan. His remarks followed an altercation during which the MP had referred to the speaker as a "drunk" and a "shame".

    Mr Phokeer explained to local media on Wednesday that "it was a joke as [the MP] was not wearing his face mask, I told him to look at his face”.

    “People know me, God knows that I don’t denigrate people. I did not at any time mean to belittle Rajesh Bhagwan," he added.

    The speaker's remarks sparked condemnation in the country and around the world, with calls for his resignation.

    Vitiligo Support UK called the speaker's behaviour "disgraceful".

    But the speaker said his conscience was "clear" that he was not talking ill about "someone's health status... I can have an illness too".

  11. Anger in Mauritius over vitiligo-shaming outburst

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Rajesh Bhagwan

    The speaker of parliament in Mauritius has been widely criticised for shaming an MP with vitiligo, a condition which causes patches of skin to become lighter.

    "Look at your face!" Speaker Sooroojdev Phokeer said 11 times to MP Rajesh Bhagwan.

    It followed an altercation during which the MP had referred to the speaker as a "drunk" and a "shame".

    A video of the exchange has been shared on Twitter:

    View more on twitter

    Vitiligo is a disease that causes areas of the skin to lose their normal pigment, or melanin.

    The comments have sparked calls for the speaker's resignation and condemnation nationwide as well as abroad.

    After the exchange Mr Bhagwan said it was "shameful" to comment on someone's health, saying the speaker was a "national disgrace".

    In a Twitter post Vitiligo Support UK called the speaker's behaviour "disgraceful".

    "Vitiligo is not a definition of our character," the group said, adding that Mr Phokeer's face should "show shame" for his "bullying and disrespect".

  12. UN body finds new Mauritian ID card violates privacy

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Man on Motorbike, Port Louis, Mauritius
    Image caption: Mauritians are required to apply for a new identity card

    The UN Human Rights Committee has found that Mauritius’ new identity card laws violate privacy rights.

    The findings were made after a Mauritian citizen sought the committee's help after the highest court ruled that the new laws were “in the interest of public order”.

    The 2013 National Identity Card Act requires every citizen to apply for a new identity card that carries fingerprints and biometric data in a microchip.

    Maharajah Madhewoo had expressed concerns over data safety and violation of privacy rights.

    He had taken the government to court and the supreme court in 2015 ruled that even though there was expert evidence showing the data retention was insecure and difficult to protect, it was necessary for public order.

    The government had introduced the requirements to prevent fraudsters from obtaining fake documents.

  13. Mauritius reopens beaches after three months

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    Beachlife at famous white sandy beaches at the lagoon on December 10, 2016 in Ile aux Cerfs, Mauritius.
    Image caption: Mauritius island is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs

    Mauritius will on Thursday reopen its white sandy beaches, three months after they were closed because of coronavirus.

    The public will be allowed to swim or walk but picnics remain prohibited.

    Other Covid restrictions have also been eased, with public and private gatherings allowed but with a maximum of 50 people.

    Sports halls, gyms and places of worships have also been allowed to reopen but must not have over 50 people at any moment.

    Dominique Marie, a resident, told the BBC that it was a "relief for many who had been waiting for this".

    "I rushed to the gym at 06:00 and trained for an hour and I can tell you it was really nice to be back to the gym," he said.

    Kindergartens, public gardens and parks also opened, as well as restaurants, food courts and fast-food outlets.

    Cinemas, casinos, bars and discotheques remain closed.

  14. Mauritius deploys nanosatellite into orbit

    Yasine Mohabuth

    BBC News, Port Louis

    Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has hailed Tuesday's deployment of a nanosatellite that was designed and made by the country's experts.

    “[It's] undoubtedly a technological advancement for the country and reflects our vision of a knowledge and innovation-based economy," said Mr Jugnauth.

    The MIR-SAT1 (Mauritius Imagery and Radiocommunications Satellite) was deployed into low orbit from the International Space Station (ISS).

    It is equipped with an X-CAM-C3D camera which will capture images and collect data about the island nation.

    View more on twitter

    The data captured will be used for various purposes, including maritime surveillance of Mauritius’ vast exclusive economic zone, climate change adaptation, weather forecasting and road traffic management.

    MIR-SAT1 cost 15 million Mauritian rupees ($366,000;£261,000) and was fully funded by the government.