Here is a
complete translation from French, the original article is at
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“The Secret Swami” excites the passions of
The Cabinet is replacing the IBA, calling for an investigation
into a documentary aired by the MBC (Mauritian Broadcasting
Company) on Sai Baba. The independence of the State from
religion is thereby ridiculed.
The irony is heavy. Four years ago, the governmental alliance
committed itself to make the MBC into a “Mauritian BBC”. On
Thursday, the Council of Ministers decided to inquire into the
re-transmission by the MBC of a documentary made by the BBC. The
Cabinet is known to be anxious that this programme aired on a
public link “projected a bad image of Sai Baba”.
The decision of the Cabinet is astonishing. Since Mauritius is a
secular state, the executive should affirm its independence of
any religion. Yet this principle was rubbished. Reading the
official statement of the Council of Ministers can lead to but
one conclusion: criticism of Sai Baba is forbidden.
Comfortably installed in his ashram in the South of India, Sai
Baba should appreciate this. Considered to be an avatar, that is
to say a divine incarnation on earth, he counts about 30 million
faithful followers throughout the world. The movement is well
anchored in Mauritius, counting influential members in the
higher realms of the Republic among its numbers. Certain members
have a large influence on Mauritian policy.
“The Secret Swami”, the BBC documentary, greatly displeased the
excessively pious Sai Baba people in Mauritius. Presenting the
hidden sides of this movement, British journalists question
former disciples who make major allegations that Sai Baba
sexually misused them or their close relations.
Aired at ca. 22.00 on Wednesday, the documentary would serve
nothing but a limited audience. The few disciples of the
movement who viewed are shocked and scandalised. The news spread
like wildfire. The protests reached the ears of influential
members of the government. The following day the matter was
taken up as very serious at the Council of Ministers. After all,
the Cabinet includes followers of Sai Baba.
Each Minister is free to choose their religious conviction, as
are all citizens. However, he cannot make it a matter of State.
Yet this is what the Government did in making the BBC
documentary and official item in cabinet discussions. This
strategy may held them gain some sympathy with the Sai Baba
community, but it also harms its credibility.
According to current norms, any protest concerning a radio or
television sending must be subjected in writing to the
Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). Admittedly, the
Complaints Committee has not sat since April, because its
members’ contract was still not renewed, but the procedures did
not change. And the Cabinet happily took the place of the IBA.
Aired in India
Everything has been set in motion at the MBC to answer the
questions of the Council of Ministers. Certain facts are already
established. The documentary “The Secret Swami” belonged to BBC
World, whose transmissions follow on from national British
television. It was not sent directly but was recorded on Tuesday
to be re-sent on Wednesday evening.- a practice common to
international linkages re-broadcast by the MBC; TV5, BBC World
and Doordarshan. The only difficulty was that they documentary
in question had not been viewed before being re-broadcast.
the MBC, one affirms that “someone is partly in the wrong”. This
logic does not hold water. By re-sending the programmes of
international broadcasters, the MBC wanted to democratise by
access to quality programmes. Why censorship? Why should
somebody locked in a small office at Forest Side decide what the
rest of the population should or should not see? By the logic
the State employs, what is good for those who can subscribe to
satellite programmes on DSTV is not good for the general
strengthen the position of the Cabinet, “The Secret Swami” is
produced by the BBC, one of the organisations most respected in
the world for its ethics. The reputation of the corporation,
however, took a bad blow after the Kelly business in 2003, when
the journalist Andrew Gilligan produced an imperfect report
about the exaggeration by Downing Street of the Iraqi threat.
The Producer’s Guidelines of the British station have since been
re-examined. That document dedicates a whole chapter to
religious susceptibilities. “The Secret Swami” was even sent in
the Indian sub-continent and the Indian Government did not make
it a matter of state. The documentary was also re-broadcast by
British television in June 2004 without there being a large
protest. The Government of Mauritius seems to be more royalist
than the king…
The Sai Baba documentary incident also lifts the veil on the
dangerous connections between socio-cultural organizations and
the MBC. Wit the passing years, these movements rely on a clause
of the MBC act which stipulates that the station must strike the
right balance in the allowance of hours of broadcasting relative
to culture and the religion. So as to strengthen this, the
socio-cultural organizations are looked on as “banks with votes”
by the Mauritian political community. They are spared,
privileged and cosseted. Over-compensation is obvious, but
nobody will want to take the risk of being hurt.
The result is that the socio-cultural organizations do not cease
to influence the programming of the MBC. Some of them became so
powerful as to be able to meet the staff of the Street Pasteur
whenever they chose. Others are allowed to lose points.
The board of directors of the MBC is content to shrug its
shoulders and to sigh that “they are dealing with the realities
of Mauritius”. The same is found with other situations like
this. Such as the postponed re-broadcast of the match between
Man. United and Man. City on Sunday, November 7, which should
have been sent direct. The MBC has then decided to satisfy the
few leaders of Hindu House instead of the thousands of fans of
the FA Cup. Who says that football is the new religion?