The parliament yesterday passed a bill establishing a broadcasting corporation, with board members to be appointed by parliament and responsible for controlling public media TVM and Voice of Maldives.
The bill effectively gives legal weight and parliamentary backing to the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), which already runs state media.
Out of 69 MPs present, 42 voted to pass the bill. The bill was presented to the parliament by the government, with MPs attempting to introduce 35, but during the vote only 18 amendments were passed.
Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary group Mohamed Shifaz said he was happy with the broadcasting bill but was unhappy on how the broadcasting corporation bill was passed.
Shifaz said that according to the bill the board members would be appointed by the parliament.
”The parliament will be appointing people for the board,” Shifaz said. “Parliament will do the interviewing and select people.”
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahloof said he was “very happy” with the bill, suggesting consternation within the MDP over the appointment of board members was “because TVM is the only media now which promotes the government.”
Mahloof said the MDP MPs were worried that if TVM became independent, “there will be no one to promote the MDP.”
”TVM would never report anything negative to the governemnt,” he said. ”It always promotes the government, that’s why they are worried that TVM might become independent when the parliament appoints board members for the broadcasting corporation.”
He said if the bill was approved by the president, media in the Maldives would become “free and independent.”
MDP MP Ahmed Easa said that appointing the board members by the parliament, announcing for interested applicants for the position and interviewing the applicants by the parliament made the parliament “a place where business is done.”
Easa said that the opposition MPs passed the bill because “they want to change the public media the way they want to.”
”It is fine if the parliament monitors the board,” he said, ”but if they are appointing people for the board that means the parliament is [participating in] the country’s business community.”
DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said the bill was passed with majority support of MPs.
Mausoom said the President Mohamed Nasheed should “be very happy” with the way the bill was passed claiming that many people blamed the government for attempting to control the media.
”Now the president can say he has no power over the media,” Mausoom said.