New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature

New regulations enacted yesterday will subject the publication of prose and poetry in the Maldives to government approval.

The stated purpose of the ‘Regulations on approving literature published in the Maldives’ (Dhivehi) is “ensuring that literature published or made public in the Maldives fit Maldivian laws and regulations as well as societal norms”.

The rules are aimed at “reducing adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature.”

The new rules sparked an immediate outcry on social media, including suggestions from former majlis speaker, Abdulla Shahid, that basic constitutional and human rights were being threatened.

The regulations prohibit publishing literary material without seeking approval from the national bureau of classification and prescribes a fine of between MVR500 (US$32) and MVR5,000 (US$324) for violations.

An additional MVR1,000 (US$64) would be imposed for repeat violations.

Moreover, if a publication is found in a court of law to contain “false information”, the approval would be revoked and the person or party would not be granted further approval for a period of one year after payment of fines for the first offence.

Approval would not be granted for three years and five years for the second and third offences, respectively.

“Books must be published in the Maldives after seeking approval from the national bureau of classification,” states section 6(a) of the regulations published in the government gazette yesterday.

However, books or pamphlets published by a political party, association, company or state institution to disseminate information among members or staff would be exempt from the requirement.

“A poem must be made public in the Maldives after seeking approval from the national bureau of classification,” states section 11(a).

Section 11(b) explains that the rule applies to “any form of publication, a separate recording or an album for sale, inclusion in a film or documentary, broadcasting or telecasting, making public through the internet, and circulating as a ring-tone.”

The regulations define books as any piece of writing, photography or artwork published either printed on paper between covers or “electronically, digitally or otherwise.”

The rules apply to publications on the internet.

The regulations also require the national bureau of classification to compile a registry of members for granting approval for publications.

“Books and poetry shall be published in the Maldives in accordance with decisions by members on the registry,” states section 13.

The conditions for membership include being a Maldivian citizen aged 30 years above and a Sunni Muslim. If a member has been convicted of a criminal offence, five years must have elapsed since either the sentence was served or a pardon was granted.

Additionally, members must have at least 10 years of experience in the relevant publishing field.

In granting approval for publication, the regulations state that members must consider whether the piece of literature “fits Islam, Maldivians laws and regulations, and societal norms.”

Moreover, members must consider the potential negative impact on society from the published material.

Section 15(c) states that members must respect the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution as well as “constructive new thinking”.

Along with a copy of the manuscript of the book or poem, a form seeking approval and a MVR50 revenue stamp must be submitted to the national bureau of classification.

Publishers must also submit a form seeking an ISB (international standard book) number.


Meanwhile, former Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has condemned the government’s “decision to impose pre-publication censorship.”

The regulations violate Article 27, 28 and 29 of the Constitution, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP tweeted today.

Article 27 guarantees “the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam,” whist Article 29 ensures “the freedom to acquire and impart knowledge, information and learning.”

Article 28 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of the press, and other means of communication, including the right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information, views and ideas. No person shall be compelled to disclose the source of any information that is espoused, disseminated or published by that person.”

The regulations were also contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Maldives’ commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Shahid contended.

The regulations have prompted a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts from Maldivians expressing concern over censorship.


21 thoughts on “New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature”

  1. How is this restricting free speech? It's just like any other censorship board. I don't want my children to see blasphemous or pornographic literature published in this country. Just my opinion.

  2. Congratulations. You will soon have the most boring bookshops in the world, just like they do in Saudi Arabia. The only subjects suitable for publication shall be Islam, Islam, Islam and Islam.........Yawn.
    I can now see why Maldivians have taken to drugs in a big way. That's because you live in one of the most boring countries on the planet.
    There is no freedom in your media either, judging by the intimidation and kidnapping of journalists.
    Moral and religious policing of published works would never be tolerated in India and we therefore enjoy a vibrant press and media. Our bookshops match the best in the world with books on every conceivable subject, many in English.
    This comment will not be published as it will be deemed to be 'against islam'.

  3. Back to censorship of the golden 30 years! "Societal norms" is the key here. It has absolutely no way of being qualified or quantified!

    Next will be a ban on any form of expression that's considered against a "societal norm". In a society where there is no real "norm" to speak of, the only purpose of this is to curtail free expression.

    I can foresee what's going to happen...

  4. I have been ashamed of being a Maldivian. I did the right thing by not returning to the Maldives. I would have been killed by the Maldivians.

    The Maldives into which I was born has been one of the most tightly controlled societies under the sun. Rules, rules and more rules have kept the people down. In the name of preserving Islam, dictatorship after dictatorship has come to the people and sucked the blood out of them.

    Even in the Soviet Union, Cuba and China there has been more freedom than in the Maldives.

    These things can happen only in a very isolated country. Maldives is isolated not only geographically but also linguistically. Divehi language is not spoken in Sri Lanka or India or anywhere else. It is only spoken in the Maldives. It is also small in size.

    Memorising the Quran and rote-learning of Islam typifies Maldivian culture.

    Three cheers to the Gayoomland that is otherwise known as the Maldives.

    There is no need for Maldivians to go and study in India and the West. The best schools are in the Maldives. The best teachers are in the Maldives. The best politicians are in the Maldives.The best judges are also in the Maldives.

    They are there for all of us to see. We admire them tremendously.

  5. @michael

    You should have mentioned the national awards for 'the brightest and the best kids' are given only to those who memorise Quran and to those who recite in flawless Egyptian dialect.

    Competitions after competion will measure how well you twist your tongue when vocalising the syllables. And by the way, understanding the meaning is frowned upon.

    For then, you would come to realise your own stupidity.

  6. This is reminiscent of a long gone era. Sultans and their favored were the only people allowed to get an education. The rest were only allowed to see or hear what was distilled from them as they saw fit.

    The purpose, of course, was to keep the masses as dumb as possible. That worked for quite a long time.

    Censorship like this would never work. People will always invent ways around them. Fear and intimidation of the free thinkers is what this would do.

  7. This is a triumph step for Islam in Maldives. We have enough of material publish against Islam and moral thought. Next step is to put these same control to the internet, where every day material threatening Islam publishing!

    @MissIndia, I inform you, Freedom of speech does not over-ride Islam or the spread of false religions. Further more, What has this so called freedom bring to India? Immorality, rape? Is this your vision for Maldives? Ha!

  8. In depth article for sure, no doubt about that. But are we supposed to already know which office of government passed these resolutions. Or is that basic knowledge?

  9. Why is my book "Folktales of the Maldives" banned in the Maldives?

    My publisher (NIAS Press) has been trying for two years in Male' to get it distributed, but so far all doors are closed.

  10. The people who made this law must be scared of their own shadows. About the only useful part of it is the requirement for each book to have an ISBN. However, I suspect that only certain combinations of figures will be deemed to be acceptably Maldivian and Islamic.

    I suppose if every author submitted their work one paragraph at a time the system would collapse under the weight of its own bureaucracy. Just a thought...

  11. Miss India, Penguin India recently pulped Wendy Doniger's The Hindus after public outcry. Rangelaa Rasul led to a blasphemy law there and India banned Rushdie's Satanic Verses before Iran (Iran!) did.

    Admit it. Bans are necessary.

  12. By the way who is going to purchase Dhivehi literature any way? The most boring sound waves, anyone can hear, on this planet! Those who are literate in any civilized language would never buy Dhivehi literature and those gullible Maldivian who don’t understand any civilized language, are useless anyway and are good only to read those meaningless, useless, scribbling they call dhivehi; the main reason Fish folks don’t develop. The richer your language the more you become advanced same as computers, and restricting it to only Makanaa Show and 7th century myths and folklore means burying this so called Dhivehi which is any way useless and morons are simply paving the way to get rid of this human uttering. Good riddance….!

  13. It seems that Maldives, which is (was?) the most literate Muslim country in the world, is now heading for the standard level of functional illiteracy found in Muslim countries from Morocco and stretching the full way to Bangladesh.
    Nauphal's comment: "It’s just like any other censorship board" is comical, in which countries does one find "other censorship boards"?

  14. @ Kashim
    You ask what this freedom has brought to India?
    It has brought secularism and human rights despite 86% of its people being Hindus.
    It has brought political stability with 67 years of democracy since independence in 1947.
    It has brought a vibrant multicultural multiethnic society why at least we TRY to get on with each other. We cherish our Shias, Ahmadis and Sufis, amongst others, who are safer in India than in any muslim majority country. We have government Haj subsidies for our Muslims.
    It has brought a vibrant and free press and media, which always face control and censorship in muslim majority countries. You don't get Hinduism, the majority religion, rammed down your throat in the press, tv broadcasts, fm radio and cinema. The emphasis here is on information, education and entertainment.....not religious brainwashing.
    It has brought growing prosperity with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. My standard of living is waaaaay ahead of yours.
    It has brought excellent low cost schools, colleges and hospitals, which is why foreigners LIKE YOU flock to India.
    I guess the bookshops in Maldives, like the ones in Saudi Arabia, will soon have endless versions of the holy book, endless volumes on lectures by stone age mullahs, endless videos of koranic discourses by 'eminent scholars', endless DVDs of little children reciting koranic verses by memory (amazing!!), prayer mats, prayer beads, little plastic bottles of zam zam water, book rests and all the other 'holy' paraphernalia......Yawn, yawn, yawn. Oh I forgot the Jihadi videos, with masked gun toting morons exhorting all Muslims to join the global jihad and beheading foreigners.
    You boring people REALLY need to get a life.

  15. Now the totalitarians come up of giving fines to writers who dare speak their minds. All in the name of "Islam needs to defended" from who? from what? How ridiculous can they get?
    Science is not inherently anti-religion, reality is; science is merely the means by which reality is brought to light.

  16. @missIndia I think that sums it up, but I also thing you find some of the miniature hard core extremist groups in Maldives suffers some sort of brain disorder, they are not able to reason and live in a dream world. You live in a peaceful democratic country with more than one thousand million people, I am afraid to think what it would be like if it was run like Maldives with a population of 250 000 ore 4000 times less They should invest more in psychiatric health care, to try to find a possible course, it is possible that its hereditary and are brought down the lines from family members

  17. @ kashim, Moral thoughts and Islam will get mocked everyday everywhere and there is nothing you, me or anyone could do about it. What's it gonna be? You play the hero by blowing your beard? There are millions of people in the world and you want them all to behave in a certain way provided by you? Learn to tolerate you bean brain! Are you the only Islamic guy around here, showing off how much you are into Islam? Do you think that anyone gives a rats c*** bag of what you think?

  18. @missIndia,well said ,but where is our hero,do you know what happenes,he is simply cant fathom this kind of discussions,his lizard brain cant hold this kind of statistics.He probably would find it a bit strange that you arent killing those sufis,gadianins,ahamadians just like his kin and kith in the derts are doing


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