Purdue research assistant launches Twitter site to monitor unrest in Madagascar
March 19, 2009
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University research assistant in Discovery Park has launched a site on the online short-messaging service Twitter to monitor and disseminate news about the current political unrest in his homeland of Madagascar.
Lova Rakotomalala, who works in the cytometry laboratory at the Bindley Bioscience Center, created his Twitter page (http://twitter.com/lrakoto) for translating reports from several dozen people on the island into English from French and Malagasy.
He also contributed content for the launch of "Madagascar Tweet," which was created by colleague Thierry Andriamirado, who lives in Madagascar's capital city of Antananarivo. That site is available online at http://twitter.com/MadagascarTweet
Rakotomalala, 31, who emigrated from Madagascar 10 years ago, started noticing a flow of reports in February on the developments in Madagascar on Twitter, which transmits messages limited to 140 characters. He also monitored several blogs that were updated by eyewitnesses. He then made contact with those who had posted reports from the ground, essentially launching an informal news bureau, via Twitter, to monitor the turmoil that is now making international headlines.
"The political unrest in Madagascar has claimed an estimated 120 lives since January," said Rakotomalala, whose Twitter site has received news coverage this week from CNN International, the Wall Street Journal and French cable television network France 24. "But very few reporters from the English-language media are on Madagascar, and the two sides battling for political power control the nation's major television and radio stations."
Madagascar, best known for its lemurs and other exotic wildlife, is a largely impoverished African island of 20 million people located on the Indian Ocean just west of Mozambique.
At the heart of the crisis are Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana, 59, and Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina, 34, a former disc jockey.
Purdue's Rakotomalal said Rajoelina has complained of high food prices, corruption and what he calls growing signs of dictatorship, while Ravalomanana has called it a power grab.
Reports circulated Wednesday (March 18) that President Ravalomanana is resigning and that Andry Rajoelina has assumed political control of the country.
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