Journalists ask for government subsidies

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has sent a letter to parliament asking for media subsidies to balance the “fragile” state of the country’s media.

The letter urged parliament to provide the subsidies “in a sensible way” to “vitalise” Maldivian journalism, in order for it to continue its “important role” of holding the government accountable.

Several newspapers have closed down while others have reduced staff numbers and salaries, it said, as a direct result of the government moving its advertisements to an in-house gazette.

“Moreover, MJA has been receiving complaints that there are many obstacles to practicing responsible journalism,” the letter read, adding that subsidies were necessary “to protect and preserve independent journalism in the country” and that failing to provide them “would have an adverse effect on this burgeoning democracy”.

President of the MJA and editor of the newspaper Haveeru, Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, proposed that media outlets be given subsidies based on circulation, in a similar system to the way political parties are funded.

“A small community [like the Maldivian media] won’t survive unless we are given support,” he said, adding that this money would not compromise the media’s independence if it was allocated by the state rather than the government.

“We have 300,000 people [in the Maldives] and that’s not enough of a market for fully private enterprise,” he argued. On the other hand, “state TV should be privatised to ensure it has a commercial component. Until recently most of the time people relied on the 8pm news on TVM (Television Maldives) to get their information, and now so much of it is biased towards the current government.”

Hiriga said he was also concerned that fully privatising media ownership would consolidate control in the hands of a few wealthy individuals.

There are no provisions in the current budget for media subsidies, although this has yet to be passed by parliament which has stalled the process at committee level, citing various concerns and “confusions”.

Chairman of the budget review committee, MP Ahmed Nazim, told Minivan News last week that there were no subsidies for the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) included in the budget.

“Can TVM [Television Maldives] and VoM [Voice of Maldives] finance their 2010 operations on their own? Surely not,” he said.

State Finance Minister Mohamed Assad said the government was “not closed to the idea of state-funded media”, but did favour corporatisation of the sector.

“The whole idea of corporatisation is to budget your own operation and not to rely on support,” he said, claiming this made the media less independent “as its income is hidden.”

He said he was concerned at the way parliament was interceding on the budget, and suggested that “we seem to be moving more to a parliamentary rather than presidential system of government.”

“We are proceeding with the budget and have not said otherwise,” he said, adding that there were contingency plans in place “because in the worst case scenario the government still has to operate. Parliament can’t bring the government to a standstill by not passing the budget.”

He dismissed the concerns of the review committee and said parts of the document were “highly technical and misunderstood, [for example] whatever is earned this year will [only] show up as next year’s income,” he said.

“I think Nazim just wanted a break, it was as simple as that.”


6 thoughts on “Journalists ask for government subsidies”

  1. Hiriga is now concerned that "fully privatising media ownership would consolidate control in the hands of a few wealthy individuals" Since when has it not? During its entire history this paper was subsidised by the Gayoom government to support those that ran the government.

    If Haveeru does not have the capacity to float its own operation through market forces the it should just disappear. Who said that Haveeru is about media freedom? All it has ever done is speak for the people who own it and those they support. As it still does.

  2. what is the use of giving media a budget from government? as our main stream media's like haveeru and others need "fundamental shift in orientation" it is a saddening issue that there's no investigative abilities in media, we got have in-depth journalistic writing where by giving opinions and facts and also the solution on how to deal with social issues and to help government in curbing destruction of our lively-hood ( drugs, extremism, corruption, gang violence, robbery .. etc ) , but in here we only see "straight news reports" cut and paste that's all .. having said that it's good that at least we have electronic media like minivannes which brings creative and interesting way, without investigative journalism this place won't get any better so it's useless to spend public money which at the end will not benifit public in anyway.. thank you

  3. Subsidies to Media outlets is a bad idea. Media independance is very important. Budget is a responsibility of the government in a presidential system. Hence, the governing party will always favour media which not critical of the government views.

    However, MJA needs to find a solution to make the industry viable. In a small country such as ours we shoud not expectto make big money out of this. The media all over the world is undergoing a lot of transformation with emegence of digital media. Hence, new approaches are required to make media business viable.

  4. To as a government to give media subsidies in my opinion is insane.

    If this happens, next will be for the businesses and for the people to come out and demand from the goverment as that Yossarian in Catch 22 (if my memory is not faulting)claimed in te mess room "Give me eat. Give everyone eat."

    The so called media in the past have been doing nothing except acting the donkey and braying praise at government the government, praising the president who later turned out to be "firaun" of this nation.

    This demand is questionable! Is the media trying to take a U turn. Then try spoil this government that is at least slowly trying to make progress towards developing good governance?

    This is a pity and this is insane!

  5. What kind of an argument is this? At this rate, is there any industry the government must not subsidize? Now unfair is this for the rest of the country and working people at other fields? If this is private media, you function as private media.

  6. it cannot be given as per circulation> there is now way anyone know the circulation numbers of the papers and viewers in maldives. its being proven that haveeru did gave different numbers to different people about the if the govt gives the subisidies according to circulation, more money should be given the least circulation number to give a boost to that paper. Haveeru became a media empire with the help of last government and still they cannot survive?? its a joke..


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