In 2004, Maldives embarked on the path toward adopting a democratic status when then President Gayoom, under mounting pressure for reforms, announced plans for significant political reforms which included the drafting of a new constitution, writes Annapoorna Karthika for the Eurasia Review.
Between 2005 and 2007, the authoritarian regime relaxed policies for registering newspapers, ended years of state monopoly over media and announced major media-related reform bills.
Even so, this liberty of journalists in the post-authoritarian Maldives to practice media impartiality and editorial independence is being increasingly undermined by diminishing religious tolerance, and escalating violent clashes between pro-democracy groups and the government.
The anti-government protestors are demanding an early election – a claim that has reportedly been supported by the Commonwealth and the European Union, but rebuffed by the government. This commentary attempts to understand the mounting inimical descent in freedom of expression and independent journalism in Maldives.
The ‘oligarchy’ typified section of Maldivian society has possibly inherited a trait from the legacy of the country’s autocratic past – the inability to acknowledge voices of dissent. The informal network of clientele controls some of the media enterprises which lack the financial mobility to initiate independence in media objectivity.
This lamentable trend has a distressing impact on the fledgling democracy of Maldives. The process of democratization is deeply entwined in the development of a transparent, impartial and responsible media. Unfortunately, the rhetoric of political rivalry is redefining the practice of journalism in Maldives today.