Free media too much for Maldives to digest: Maldives Media Council

Following the attacks on media property during Monday’s unrest, Maldives Media Council (MMC) President Mohamed Nazeef has expressed doubt over whether a free media can flourish in the Maldives at the present time.

“We see that although we talk of democracy and freedom of media and expression, I don’t think society is ready to digest a free media,” said Nazeef.

After protests against the reconvening of the People’s Majlis turned violent, Villa Television (VTV) bore the brunt of the angry demonstrations. Projectiles aimed at the studio included bricks – and in one instance, a bicycle – while the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) personnel manned the building’s entrance.

The anger of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters towards VTV has been building since the events of February 7 when staff of the then-state broadcaster Maldives National Broadcast Corporation (MNBC) were ordered to patch through the VTV broadcast.

VTV is owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim, also a member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). Gasim’s chain of Villa Island resorts have been placed on a recent travel advisory of UK-based pro-democracy organisation Friends of Maldives (FOM).

“These are places linked to individuals or groups who we suspect to be involved in the subversion of democracy and in human rights abuses in the Maldives,” reads the advisory.

In a video aired on Raajje Television earlier this month, Gasim was seen celebrating inside police headquarters upon hearing of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision to resign.

MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor alleged at the time that the video proved “Gasim’s blatant complicity in the coup d’état.”

The nation watched VTV on state television before the feed was cut off and came back on, re-branded as Television Maldives (TVM), the name of the state broadcaster during Gayoom’s regime.

The MDP have since alleged that the national broadcaster is “being blatantly used as propaganda outlet of the coup regime, while the ongoing peaceful political activities of the MDP are being sidelined with little regard to the MBC’s mandate and the nation’s laws under which the MBC is functional.”

When asked if the MNDF had been stationed outside the television studios in anticipation of an attack, Colonel Abdul Raheem responded, “We didn’t get any intelligence that there would be attacks. It was not only VTV [that was guarded], we had persons around all key locations.”

The camera of a photographer from the Haveeru paper was also destroyed by protesters during Monday’s unrest, although Editor Moosa Latheef said he did not believe this instance was politically motivated.

Latheef reported no increase in aggression towards his reporters during the recent political strife.

In January, journalists working for the then state broadcaster MNBC were badly beaten during a protest outside the corporation’s headquarters. Preceding these attacks MNBC reporters received death threats, an MNBC official reported at the time.

Free Media?

MMC President Mohamed Nazeef lamented the politicisation of media outlets and the animosity that this produced from sections of the public: “It is a very sad situation.”

The MMC consists of fifteen members elected to preserve, promote and maintain the freedom of the press.

“The media is owned by political and business leaders. Do journalists have freedom to report what they like?” asked Nazeef. “It doesn’t happen.”

Nazeef blamed a lack of financial independence for a dearth of balanced content. “Media organisations are not financially viable. They are dependent on the owners.”

Government subsidies have been used before to try and tackle this issue, but Nazeef argued that this method was not without its problems: “It goes into the pockets of the owners.”

Whilst deploring the violence that was directed at VTV on Monday, Nazeef was not surprised.

“It shouldn’t happen, but you see the media provoking it. [Media] know [they] are taking sides… Media should balance their content.”

Aiman Rasheed of Transparency Maldives was of a similar opinion: “The media situation is clear – different media are aligned behind different people… [We] see conflict extended to the media.”

Transparency Maldives conducted a study last year into the performance and potential bias of six media organisations of which VTV was included (as was Minivan News). The amount of coverage devoted to its owner’s JP was noted as “significantly high” and largely positive.

Meanwhile, the Maldives dropped 21 places on Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index between 2010 and 2011. The organisation also expressed its concern over the takeover of MNBC on February 7.

Fathimath Ibrahim Didi of the NGO Maldives Democracy Network agreed that a free media was a crucial concept but added, “What we want to stress is that, at the same time, it is very essential for the media to be responsible.”

“Most of the media stations in Maldives are owned by businessmen in who are somehow affiliated with a political party. Hence there is a very high probability for the media to be biased towards one side while reporting.”

Private station DhiTV is financed by ‘Champa’ Mohamed Moosa, a local businessman and political benefactor of the former opposition, while the recently opened Raajje TV belongs to Akram Kamaaluddin, state minister at Nasheed’s administration.

Among the most popular local news websites, newspaper Haveeru is owned by Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain, who filled various cabinet posts under Gayoom’s administration and has now been appointed as chancellor of the Maldives National University by Dr Waheed, replacing his former party member Dr Mustafa Luthfy.

Sun Online belongs to Meedhoo MP and resort tycoon Sun Travel Ahmed Shiyam.

Minivan News was itself often been accused of MDP bias due its inception as a party news source. Following the change of power in 2008, all funding from politically-affiliated sources was removed. Since then the site has relied on income generated through banner advertising and has passed to a succession of foreign editors who have attempted to establish it as a credible and objective source of news in the Maldives.

Despite the ownership of media, Fathmath thinks reporters can play a crucial role in maintaining neutrality.

“Reporters themselves should also maintain neutrality at all times. We as citizens would like to see non-contradictory information or interpretation regarding one incident from all the media outlets of the Maldives,” Fathimath concluded.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that DhiTV was owned by Hassan ‘Champa’ Afeef. DhiTV is financed by Mohamed ‘Champa’ Moosa. Minivan News regrets any confusion caused.


21 thoughts on “Free media too much for Maldives to digest: Maldives Media Council”

  1. Dr.Mohamed Zahir Hussain also married Dictator Maumoon's wife Nasreena when Maumoon divorced Nasreena for a third time. The woman has to marry another man If she is been divorced for a third time by the same man and if the same man wants to remarry the women.According to Sharia the woman must sleep with the man to whom she got married after the first man divorced her for a third time.....Some people say Nasreena didnt sleep with Zahir Hussain after they got married.

  2. the report was about the attack on VTV. the reporter didnt bother to get a comment from vtv. why?

  3. My god! Minivan is unbiased?

    I think the first step towards modernizing the media and promoting better practices is accepting one's own faults.

    Selective reporting and presenting news in an angle favorable to one's financiers is all well and good. However Minivan as well as most news outlets in the Maldives have often overstepped these boundaries.

    Haveeru Daily is the only news source in this country that has evolved to develop a more neutral and balanced coverage of events in the country. Allegations of selective reporting are hard to level against them as well as they report instantly on all major issues taking place in the country.

    Minivan on the other hand works more like a travel agency or diplomatic communications office for the MDP.

  4. Excessive media freedom and the 24 hour news cycle are issues that any small country needs to address. However Maldivians are too 'drunk' in mass concepts like freedom and democracy that is being brought with globalization and internet. Democracy and freedom are of course good things but they should not be preached as they are - local customization is what is lacking and what MDP needs to seriously think.

  5. Who is biased here?
    Not the media or the comments!
    And come on! Do we have to talk about couples sleep!

    Haveeru originally was a very biased paper. It was not possible to read very biased spins. Cannot not say any about the current edition! But it is very unlikely it cannot be biased when it comes to the interest of Maumoon or his puppet!

  6. Just like the old days, bribe the Police, bribe the Army and take over the media = perfect ingredients for a dictatorship and a coup!


  7. Please inform the author that in dictatorships, free speech is illegal.

  8. MDP supporters threw a bicycle at VTV building and smashed the glass windows by throwing bricks at the windows of VTV for over twenty minutes ? MDP supporters smashed the video camera of Haveeru newsreporter by snatching it from the Haveeru reporter and throwing it to the ground ? MDP supporters set Neelanfihaara (auctionplace) on fire ? MDP supporters threw bricks and stones at Police because MDP was angry that Waheed was in the Majilis ?

    Is this what MDP and Minivan news labels as peaceful protesting ?

  9. while speaking about Akram Kamaluddeen whay did not minivan say that he is a media tycoon and owns the sole cable tv operation (media Net) in Male'?
    Also that he is related to Mariya via her former husband who is married to Akram's first wife.
    Would appreciate if Minivan bring the whoile truth while reporting instead of the half baked truth.

  10. @ali aboobakr
    Its 03 TV against one, all parties against one, all police and MNDF against one party which is struggling for freedom............ So who is biased and fair is clear to the readers of Minivan News....Dont try to fool people now!!

  11. @Citizen on Thu, 22nd Mar 2012 8:26 AM

    Peaceful protests is setting fire to a policeman. Maybe occupying "Chandhanee Maidhan", maybe smashing the MMA building. Toss a log from the top a tall building.

    Maybe incite hatred publicly, you know against Jews. Perhaps enlightening the crowd about the length of a ladder needed to scale MNDF headquarter walls.

    Need I go on?

  12. If the regime thinks they can take us back to the age where it was more of a crime to speak about and retaliate against the crime of intimidation and torture than the intimidation and torture itself they're very wrong. Women have been stripped naked and humilited and beaten up just this week. It is a crime not to talk about these things. Not to do something is akin to being complicit in these crimes. VTV was attacked. Yes. And VTV is speaking about it and doing something about it. Well and good. Insha Allah we will too!

  13. @ Radhun,

    Terror group or not; MDP is the only party that has ever come to the peoples with a true manifesto.

    It is the only party that has ever tried to implement its manifest0 with a good will, and under immense pressure we all bear witness!

    The path MDP is taking towards JUSTICE would be a tough one, but should not go to waste!

    To dump this would be the most unjust thing anyone living today can do for the country!

    Looking at the article; Media today is sickening!

  14. @ Sir Ya, I believe in any party or any person working for true justice and respect for democracy. What I hate is someone wear the hat of democracy and disrespect the very basic principle of democracy.
    Do you honestly believe MDP's many action is what they promissed to the people? True their Manifesto was meant to be for a good change and cause unfortunately only 40 % was applied.

    I also believe MDP does have few gentlemen and they who believe in tru reform. But unfortunately they are forced to be silent because of Nasheed, Reeko, Maria who have nothing else in mind but to terrorise "The People" and remain in power.

    Unfortunately if you are infested with yellow fewer you will not see darker side of MDP.

    FYI im not a member of any party but I will support & listen to anyone who speaks in national interest rather than party interest.

    Over last 3 years Nasheed had good intentions unfortunately he gave a silent ear to the voices of national interests and was carried away by the greed and power hungry hypocrats Like Reeko & Maria.

  15. This is a very good issue to discuss! I do not know which Agency is mandated with the task of regulating the media content it is broadcasting but that has been a key reason why our society is so divided!
    All media reporting in Maldives is biased but to different degrees! At times to an extent that peoples rights, dignity and private life is violated. The problem has been that the media has not been held accountable! That should be the first step towards establishing an unbiased media. The reporter, the editor as well as the media outlet must be held responsible fo what they publish/report.

  16. Shariya is the supreme law of Maldives. Shariya automatically bans free speech, so what are we complaining?

  17. A free media in a 100% sunni muslim country?.....that will be the day!!
    Free media in saudi arabia?
    Free media in afghanistan?
    Free media in somalia?
    Free media in yemen?
    Free media in pakistan?

  18. And why do we need a free media you harlot woman!?

    So that we may be exposed to the deranged lifestyles embraced by the Western countries and their puppets, which, incidentally, would include India?

    So that we may gawk in wonder at your chapathi Gods!?

    So that our children will be exposed to the false cults of homosexuality and the pseudosciences of evolutionism and neurologism, made popular the fervent ramblings of madmen that call themselves scientists?

    So that our religion can be mocked and disparaged!?

    So that our women might become opinionated, throw away their veils, neglect their duties of breeding, childcare, housekeeping and the attention to the comfort of their husbads. That they might become deranged and depraved, and lust after the sinful "freedoms" that will lead them straight to eternal damnation!

    You fool! We will not surrender your ilk!

    You fool!

  19. @Divehi Hanguraama: Simple. We need free media to avoid becoming like you - ie bigoted, narrow minded and ignorant. The idea that "we are not ready" for free media is typical dictatorship talk - very Burmese general-ish -maybe Yamin Gayoom has been taking some handy tips from them while doing his dodgy oil deals. Well we are more than ready to handle free media thank you very much, and we will have democracy too, thanks. The only ones who aren't ready for both are the ones currently in power who don't seem to realise what a democratically elected government is - let alone what the word "election" is, unless they are deaf and blind - delusions of omnipotence/a sort of God complex?


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