Maldives remains “partly free” environment for media: Freedom House

Media freedom has remained steady in the Maldives following significant gains in 2009, according to a report by Freedom House.

The country was found to be a “partly free” environment for media, with the constitution protecting freedom of expression “but also restricting freedom of speech ‘contrary to the tenets of Islam’.”

The report was published prior to the release of new regulations enforcing the Religious Unity Act, which bans media ‘from producing or publicising programs, talking about or disseminating audio ‘that humiliates Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith’,” imposing a 2-5 year prison sentence.

Freedom House noted that the overall legal framework protecting free expression “remained weak, with many proposed media reform bills still awaiting passage”, however it praised parliament for passing an amendment to the penal code in 2009 decriminalising defamation.

The organisation noted that legislation to transform the state broadcaster, the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), into the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation, a public broadcaster, “was passed in April 2010, but the government delayed implementing the handover.”

Increased media diversity had improved coverage of major political events, including by the state broadcaster, “though the [MNBC] still suffers from pro-government bias.”

Investigative journalism, Freedom House noted, “remains hampered by the lack of an access to information law and a culture of secrecy at government departments.”

While the formation of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) was “cautiously welcomed”, given the preference of advocacy groups for self-regulation, the elections process was criticised for not being sufficiently transparent, and former members of political parties were nominated as candidates to the Council.”

The MMC is currently facing criticism from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for the payment of almost a million rufiya in “living allowances” to Council members beyond their stipulated salaries.

On the advocacy side, Freedom House observed that the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) “regularly made statements regarding media freedom issues and journalists’ rights during the year, accusing the government and political leaders of interference with the private media in a number of cases”, however it noted that “an alternate group, the Maldives National Journalists’ Association (MNJA), was founded in 2010, reportedly in response to the perceived politicisation of the MJA.”

Private print media had expanded and represented a wide variety of viewpoints, the Freedom House report noted, “however some publications are owned by allies of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom or other political actors, who exercise considerable control over content. Most newspapers are not profitable and rely on financial backing from businessmen with strong political interests.”

The government had “generally” avoided interfering with internet access, used by approximately 28 percent of the population in 2010, however “the Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced in 2008 that Christian and anti-Islam websites would be blocked, arguing that they could negatively affect belief in Islam, and a number of websites were blocked by the Telecommunication Authority at Ministry’s request during 2009.”

Journalists meanwhile remained subject to “some harassment”, with incidents including an attack in August 2010 on the offices of VTV by “unknown assailants”, “and a police attack on journalists covering a political protest in October.” Verbal attacks included threats against media outlets from Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) MP Reeko Moosa, and repeated death threats against certain bloggers “from Islamist extremists”.


8 thoughts on “Maldives remains “partly free” environment for media: Freedom House”

  1. If the religious unity regulation says that publishing things against islamic faith is a criminal offence and if the maldivian constitution restrict freedom of expression within the tenets of islam. Then why does minivan news continuously publish outragiously anti-islam contents in the form of comments and openions? Afterall, you are a registered newspaper and not some personel hate site. I demand answers from jj Robinson and others runing the site.
    I also call upon maldivians to stand against the continous breaking of maldivian laws by this site.

  2. That certain blogger was found red handed with an underage majeedhiya boy in a bedroom.
    And that same blogger used narcotics in overdose amount and attempted sucide.
    and ended up in prision and ultimately his criminal charges were dropped as he is a relative of the president.
    He now goes advertising that he had a gang of drug addicts who will physically harm anyone who stand against him.
    These are the types of 'freedom' this freedom house wants in maldives.

  3. Freedom is not always necessary. Especially when the population is under sustained attack by those who promote deranged western interests and ideologies - and when that population is easily succeptible to such ideology. For instance, why should anyone seriously question the wisdom, that a horse is much safer inside of the stable? Similarly, why then, should we question the wisdom of those who know better, that a woman is safer at home or inside of her Niqab? We should not questions such things.

    As a great man once said; if thought is immature, liberty of thought becomes a method of converting men into animals.

  4. Minivan news being a registered newspaper, falling under maldivian jurdistiction has been breaking the existing laws and regulations of maldives. They have been selectively targeting islam in their news covergae. They are continuously publishing islamophobic opinion pieces from people running hate blogs and anti-islam facebook pages. Their comment section is filled with hateful, degrading and threatening contents against islam. We believe that by publishing those, the editorial board of minivan news has broken certain laws of Maldives. We will be making formal complaints to the Maldives Media Council, Maldives Police Service and Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Our lawsuit against minivan news will also be submitted to the criminal court in a short period.

  5. Former close allies of Gayoom are no longer his allies. Miadhu daily newspaper owner was once Gayoom ally former Health Minister Ahmed Abdulla. Now he is MDP and Prez Nasheed ally and given Govt position with diplomatic passport. Gayoom ally Former Education minister and owner of Haveeru Daily, Zahir Hussain's allegiance to Gayoom is also a thing of the past. Zahir Hussain's daughter is MDP and serving Prez Nasheed as Minister of state for Health. Zahir Hussain's son is married to Undersecretary in the President's Office. Zahir Hussain's wife is sister to both Defence Minister Tholhat Ibrahim and MDP (former) Finance Minister Ali Hashim.

  6. This reminds me of my friend who 'partly' lost her virginity.

    She doesn't exist of course.

    As a blogger who has received several threats from fundamentalists, I can say that freedom of expression is quite severely restricted.

    Among mainstream news organizations, it is only the comments section of Minivan News that respects readers comments.

    All the other news websites / organizations resorts to blatant censorship.

    And still, I see idiots who complain there's too much freedom here at Minivan. Silencing dissenting views seems to be ingrained in their culture

  7. no one is above the law. its high time we bring down this site and some blogs for breaking the maldivian law.

  8. Good that we have some freedom.

    Problem is, as Reporters Without Borders warns: a press freedom index "should in no way be taken as an indication of the quality of the press in the countries concerned.”

    Partially free, wholly crap - that's Maldivian mainstream media for you.


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