Press freedom includes freedom from subsidies: President Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed has promised the Maldivian government “will not touch the press, and will not harass the press” despite the existence of rules and regulations to do so, a legacy of the former government.

“We [don’t] want to do this because we believe a free press is responsible for consolidating democracy,” he said, speaking to visiting dignitaries at the closing ceremony of the South Asia Regional Consultation on Freedom of Information.

At the same time, he said, the government did not want to subsidise the press either.

“Right now we are still subsidising the press – especially in terms of land,” Nasheed said. “This is very sad – the government has subsidised one of the very big newspapers with land, and is unable to similarly subsidise any other paper.”

Nasheed said he was “told every day that we should stop that subsidy to that newspaper, but it is one of the most established newspapers – whatever side they take – and is very well laid out with nice pictures.”

Television stations VTV and DhiTV were last week collectively the beneficiaries of nearly 50 percent of a ‘one-off’ Rf4 million subsidy approved and allocated by the same parliamentary committee. 35 percent was allocated to radio and the remaining 15 percent to print media. Online media, including Minivan News, was exempted from subsidies.

Improving the media

Nasheed said he would not invoke the phrase ‘responsible journalism’, as it was “very often a phrase used by politicians when they want to gag journalists.”

“In my mind all journalism is responsible – but how responsible it is depends on where you stand and how you are reading it. When you praise me, I might see it as very responsible – but someone else might see it as very irresponsible. I have always thought that any amount of criticism should be tolerated.”

The press, the president said, should be left to self-determine at the hands of market forces and “come up with their own ideas and sense of responsibility and how they want to behave and report to the public.”

In the spirit of this claim, “one of the first things we did when we came to government was to stop printing the pro-government, pro-party newspaper Minivan Daily. We did this at a great cost to ourselves, because there was no one to report the government point of view, and we understood the gap it would create.”

The government should appear in the news by virtue of its newsworthiness, Nasheed said, “not because we force or pay others to write about us, and not because we have a government subsidised newspaper. Let us stand behind podiums and try to bring the government viewpoint across.”

Successive governments had abolished the newspapers of the previous regimes, he noted, and all the regulations to control the media were still present.

“I have been criticised by many of my friends in my party for not doing this, and therefore not being able to bring the government viewpoint across,” he said.

“I am hoping there will be at some point in time when people will realise that a certain news agency is not always coming out with the truth or being responsible – that people will decide to stop reading or listening to inaccurate media. We believe market forces will encourage media to produce reasonably accurate reports.”

Nasheed said a number “of very dynamic news agencies” in the Maldives had already begun shifting the manner and outlook in which they write, “so people are fairly reported.”

The manner in which the country dealt with media dissidents had progressed markedly, the President said.

“When I was first arrested [under the former government] the gentlemen in the cell next to be one of the best writers in the Maldives, Ahmed Waheed. He was an excellent writer, you couldn’t get better prose from anyone.

“For me, this talk of press freedom has always consolidated itself in this person. After seven months [in prison] he broke. When he was finally released was become totally retarded, he stopped writing, thinking, talking, conversing with anyone. We are unable to salvage or find him at all.”

“I’m not saying this to point out that previous administration was vindictive, or highlight their ways and means and methods, but to point out that this is what we have been facing.”

Nasheed noted that the current government “does not have a journalist in prison, and does not intend to have a journalist in prison.”

This, he said, was despite many of the country’s “most creative” journalists still retaining their connections “to agencies of the previous government.”

“Our core governance and values are very clear regarding press freedom. We want to be as fair as it is possible to be in the world, not as fair as it is dictated by South Asia or even the United Nations,” he declared.


6 thoughts on “Press freedom includes freedom from subsidies: President Nasheed”

  1. Ah, it seems that finally we are beginning to see the true 'Anni', unfettered by the views of the MDP lackeys! Let us hope this can continue.

    Btw, Minivan - would be nice if you used your spelling checker before you publish.

  2. i agree with the need for a spell checker!

    it is disgraceful that DHiTV, our very own FOX NEWS, have got their DRP pals to dish them a big dirty wad of the public's money. how responsible is that?

  3. What President Nasheed says is not necessarily what he does. He talks about his commitment to press freedom but my observation is that content on TVM seems more biased in favour of the government than even under Gayoom.

  4. Minivan news - also can you send the thinking key pad so we don't have to type! Thanks.

  5. I hope you don't at least change it to "CITIZENS' freedom includes freedom from susidies!"

  6. President named a guy and called him a retard in a public speech? 'retard' is a politically incorrect word to be used in all accounts these days. Unless of course you're trying to be insulting. And to think he used it in an international forum.

    And Minivan News really should copy edit the articles, not just this one.


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