Religious intolerance sees Maldives drop to 73rd in Press Freedom Index

The Maldives has fallen 21 places on Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s press freedom index between 2010 and 2011.

The country is now ranked 73, level with the Seychelles and below Sierra Leone but still well above many countries in both the region and the Middle East countries, including Qatar, Oman and the UAE.

The Maldives took a giant leap in 2009 to 51 following the introduction of multiparty democracy – in 2008 it had been ranked 104.

RSF has however recently expressed concern at the rising climate of religious intolerance in the Maldives and its impact on freedom of expression.

“A climate of religious intolerance prevailed in the Maldives, where media organisations were subjected to threats by the authorities and had to deal with an Islamic Affairs Ministry bent on imposing Sharia to the detriment of free expression,” RSF stated.

In November 2011 the organisation reacted to the Islamic Ministry’s order to block the website of controversial blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, stating that “the increase in acts of religious intolerance is a threat to the Maldives’ young democracy”.

“Incidents involving media workers are rare but that is only because most of them prefer to censor themselves and stay away from subjects relating to Islam. The government should not give in to the fanatical minority but must do all it can to ensure the media are free to tackle any subjects they choose,” the organisation said.

Rasheed was subsequently arrested on the evening of December 14 for his involvement in a “silent protest” calling for religious tolerance, held on Human Rights Day. The protesters had been attacked and Rasheed hospitalised after being struck with a stone.

On his release without charge three weeks later, Rasheed expressed concern for his safety.

“The majority of Maldivians are not violent people. But I am concerned about a few psychotic elements who believe they will go to heaven if they kill me – people who don’t care if they go to jail for it. Those people I am afraid of, and I will not provoke the country in the future,” he told Minivan News.

In September 2011 the government published new ‘religious unity’ regulations enforcing parliament’s religious unity act of 1994, with a penalty of 2-5 years imprisonment for violation.

Under the regulations, the media is banned from producing or publicising programs, talking about or disseminating audio deemed to “humiliate Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith.”

More recently several journalists with the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) were beaten, threatened and tasered after protesters from the opposition and ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) clashed outside the station. Both sides blamed each other for the attacks, while MNBC said it would no longer cover the ongoing protests on scene.

The government meanwhile claimed that its commitment to media freedom is “absolute and unwavering.”

“President Nasheed’s administration never has and never will do anything to undermine the independence, integrity or professionalism of the media,” said President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.

Zuhair’s comments followed allegations that Communications Minister Adhil Saleem had intimidated journalists by threatening to withdraw broadcasting licenses, which Zuhair claimed was “merely” a reaction to “certain TV news channels acting unprofessionally when airing footage of recent protests.”

Despite the fall, the Maldives was still ranked significantly higher than many other countries in the region.

Sri Lanka fell to 163, continuing a steady decline over the last decade (it was ranked 51 in 2002).

“The stranglehold of the Rajapakse clan [has] forced the last few opposition journalists to flee the country,” RSF said in a statement on the release of the 2011 Index.

“Any that stayed behind were regularly subjected to harassment and threats. Attacks were less common but impunity and official censorship of independent news sites put an end to pluralism and contributed more than ever to self-censorship by almost all media outlets.”

Bangladesh fared poorly (129) – “despite genuine media pluralism, the law allows the government to maintain excessive control over the media and the Internet” – while Nepal (109) showed modest improvement with a drop off in violence between the government and Maoist rebels.

India’s position fell (131) after the government unveiled the “Information Technology Rules 2011, which have dangerous implications for online freedom of expression. Foreign reporters saw their visa requests turned down or were pressured to provide positive coverage.”

Pakistan (151st) meanwhile remained the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year running.

Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland were ranked as having the greatest press freedom, while North Korea and Eritrea fared the worst.


29 thoughts on “Religious intolerance sees Maldives drop to 73rd in Press Freedom Index”

  1. That is bad, very bad. You are being seen today as a circus .. and that hurts. It hurts the ones that love your country.

  2. Religious intolerance?

    Alarmist - much?

    While I do not support blocking Hillath's blog, it is hardly a contribution to our vibrant media. Hillath's blog is mainly a personal diary where he expresses his own outrageous views while posting satirical articles often laced with sexual innuendos and sometimes with outright sexual content.

    Our country is religiously-conservative. We have never denied this fact and remain unashamed of it. So are a lot of developed countries in the world. The Southern States in America are dotted with similarly conservative areas. However we have never promoted violence as a means to react to what we find offensive. What the report has mentioned is an isolated incident and it should be mentioned as such.

    There is no evidence of systematic media suppression based on religious views. Not to claim that our country allows religious pluralism or open debate on religious issues but that is something we are not yet ready to compromise on. We have also entered reservations on all international human rights treaties we are party to in order to maintain our stand on this particular issue.

    So the recent pressure on our country to adhere to standards we have not agreed to accept is strange and outside the bounds of established practice in diplomatic circles.

  3. Religious intolerance? Is this some kind of joke, meant to make our pious muslim women laugh, which in turn makes hellfire even hotter!?

    Why should we tolerate something which is simply not the truth? Should we let false ideologies such as Atheism (something created by Jews) spread in our country? Why? Would you rather go to heaven, than go to hell? Our constitution ensures that every Maldivian goes to heaven (minus the punishments they would endure in hell)!

    I consider this a blessing. It doesn't matter even if our country ranks the lowest, but Islam in its true form is now becoming widely spread in our country. More women are letting go of the fashion-oriented buruga, and are wearing the niqab. More women are letting their beards grow! We are making ourselves different from the evil Jews! We shall remain true muslims until the end, and no other religion shall be allowed in our country. If you aren't a Muslim in the Maldives, then please leave. You aren't welcome here. If you choose to stay, then the law shall take care of you. Just take the example of Mohamed Nazim!

    If it were upto me, then we would be enforcing the apostasy punishment in our country. But our leaders are cowards and bow down to Jews elsewhere!

  4. Honourable Sheikh Imran Abdullah, I am trying very hard to grow my beard to show my steadfast faith in Islam, but somehow it just won't grow. Please advise! Sincerely, Sabina Manik

  5. dear borders!!
    Where is religious freedom in France? Where is religious freedom in USA? Where relgious freedom in your partner buddy state Saudi Arabia?
    One must wonder what you guys want? a sufist deviant Islam state? yes! RAND report states that!! Pls try your best..lets see!! Freedom is when u want it...and when its working against u guys freedom is limited in the name of what ever!!

  6. Religious intolerance? Alarmist? Hardly

    Unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own: hardly alarmist, considering what such beliefs lead to - already proven once outside Sultan Park.

  7. I am very pleased to hear that sia is pleased that "More women are letting their beards grow!". He then corrects himself by saying that he meant to refer to men doing this and comments "I apologize to all the Muslim readers."

    Now I was confused and looking for enlightenment. As I am not a Muslim can he not even extend his apology to me?

  8. @Tsk Tsk you confirmed my opinion that you are a narrow minded intolerant neocon, just as bad as those redneck Alabama bigots you so admire!

  9. So by comparing press freedom in Maldives with that of Qatar, UAE, etc. do you expect to show that Maldives is not that bad? Come on, this is crock. Maldivian press is highly politicized and biased and free, objective, in-depth reporting and journalism is only a dream in the eye of a pitiful few. Even Minivan is not shielded from the censorial disease that passes for journalism and reporting.

  10. @ZANI

    I fully agree with you.In the name of freedom these westerners wants to destroy our faith & culture.
    As Long as u being dragged in to their filthy way of life these westerners will not be satisfied and its a fact.

  11. Religious intolerance?
    This is news to me.
    What have anyone done as an act of religious intolerance to drop down our position to 73?
    This is nothing but making a whole range of mountains out of a mole hill.
    This proves Reporters Without Borders are also reporters with reservations.
    Try actually looking into our Maldivian picture without any prejudices. Then you can be more accurate in your reporting.

  12. thank you minivan . you have actually given the real reasons why this is happening. unlike sunfm and haveeru trying to hide some facts as usual. that is how they think the media freedom is. having their opinion and seeing one angle of news and being partial.

  13. recent crackdown on the opposition media by the government is the main cause for this drop. Please read the report.

  14. Islam is for those who have no brain to think on their own, in other word it is for un-evolved half ape half human thing. The Maldives is the planet of ape where majority people are die-hard Islamist. The cognitive deficit of this nation is measured by the amount of people who think that Islam is from the creator of universe. 95% of these people have no doubt that this immoral belief system is the perfect way of life. There is no hope for these people to act rationally. These guys defend criminals and condone all immorality. People who are intelligent and talk rationale are considered as bad people. They have no ability to think anything positive. The negativity is their way of life. Their brains are corrupted with false belief. The biggest proof of their false belief is the amount of trust they have on them for something no one can prove to be right.

  15. Zani, there are Muslims in France and the US. They openly worship Allah. There are also mosques in those countries. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia and Maldives. Christians in Saudi Arabia and Maldives are not permitted to worship God. So there is freedom of religion in France and USA. There is no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia and Maldives. Have I written this in easy enough English for you to read and understand? Will it be easier for you to understand if I said that in single syllable grunts?

  16. wine and pork lover, I have to agree with you about the religious freedom in most western countries at least my legislation. There are no religious boundaries in places like the USA of a Muslim becoming a President of the USA. There are social boundaries of course.
    There are Muslim MPs in all of these places and there was even a Muslim Minister in the Labour Government in the UK.
    While I would also support Maldives being a 100% Muslim country, I would also support the freedom on anyone to chose what they want to chose as in Islam, there is no compulsion. How can anyone force to believe something?
    If the Almighty Allah says that there is no compulsion how can an some bearded weirdo say otherwise? I sometimes feel that these Mullahs are claiming that they know better than the Almighty Allah based on what they say and what they do.

  17. Minivan is fully responsible for any losing points in Maldives reputation as this is the only source of english news of the country which constantly bloats every issue and connect it to religion.

    Minivan has an agenda to portray Maldives in the most negative light because islamophobia sells. its a good selling point for a failed media like minivan.

  18. Wine and Pork lover!
    One must have some deep thought faculty to combine one puzzled peace together with another. I don't doubt your mental capacity as your's corrupted by too many wine and its impurities. I know how your mind cannot do simple arthemetics due to drunkness! BUT let me tell you and pls do your research on the Saudi kingdom, Kuwait, Iraq (Saddam),..etc with the close association with US political elite firms and its bonds!! One must wakeup from alcohol and wine to find these! One must wake up from one's desires to set free and be a lover of freedom! What you are adovocating in Maldives is yet another slavery that exists in Middles east and modern slavery that exist in USA and West!! Pls don't twist historical and current political facts!!

  19. Who cares?

    Why is tolerance always a virtue?

    Here is a list of things I don't "tolerate":

    1. Drugs
    2. Fornication
    3. Bestiality
    4. Jews
    5. Alcohol
    6. Immodesty
    7. Pork
    8. Idolatry/Oogah Boogah Hindu "Gods"
    9. Theft

    Would our nation be better off compromising our identity and homogeneity, so that we can tolerate these things - to please a persistent and arrogant secular minority no less?

    Absoloutely not! Our nation is in a precarious economic state; our political institutions (along with their exponents, and comprising elements) are immature, our faith is being continually challenged by petulant children; and our women are shameless, lascivious harlots that are failing in their task of raising decent, God-fearing children (shame on them!).

    Adopting Western norms and values would only exacerbate these evils.

  20. Just unlike the Maldives that is obviously in a big mess, mainly due to lack of tolerance and racism towards other cultures, [ I taught In would never say this, but yes, there is racism in The Maldives] Mediterranean countries are getting together with their own religions looking for working together. The difference from the time when men where in caves and today is common understanding. Please see how Muslims and other cultures are meetings and working together.
    Help your self ...

  21. And meanwhile no minarets tolerated in Switzerland and no headscarfs tolerated in France......but we should tolerant all anni's English buddies and give them access to all our land and resources.....never!

  22. The Maldives is a sovereign nation, and the Maldivian people are free to be as bigoted, racist, and religiously intolerant as they wish to be.

    Having said that, I say that the Maldivian should stay on their sinking islands, refrain from visiting moderate and liberal countries, give back their technologies, and stop advertising to liberal and moderate people to come and visit its shores and spend their disposable income. Go only to Pakistan and the like for your education, stop buying Apple products, and when a tsunami hits, beg Pakistan for money, and stop asking the West to provide you with renewable energy.

    Fester in your hate and ignorance, you all deserve it.

  23. bolted. what land and resources?! the country is 99% water what land and what resource would be there. tell me something other than fish is there anything maldives exports? stop talking shit. this freedom of religion issue is a big one. coz what you don't realize is no matter what anyone says or how many times people are thrown into jails their belief cant be taken away from them. whether its silently (which is wrong coz we all deserve a chance to be who we are) or out where everyone can see em. m sad to say this but maldives will never ever be 100% muslim. ever. religious freedom is a basic human right. everyone deserves a chance to find their way and find their gods. maldives is getting far too depressing i tell you..

  24. Sheikh Imran Abdullah: "If you aren’t a Muslim in the Maldives, then please leave. You aren’t welcome here". I wonder what would you say if the non-Mulsim countries do the same with their religion. BTW atheists are technically better than theists who kill each other just to prove only their god is real.

    Bolted: France is for French. Wearing headscarves are not in their culture. Nationality and Religion are not the same. Polar glaciers are melting... did that ring a bell for you? (It's you who should look for land)

  25. who are you people? really, u worried and commenting on this article? look at yourself closer people...grow up. silly people.

  26. The true freedom of Press. Earlier we used to say " YOU ARE FREE TO TALK UNTILL YOU TALK". The MNBC reports were beaten up and today they are 100% On the opposite side of the other two stations. What Freedom of Press are we asking for. FREEDOM TO BE BIASED? YOU ALREADY HAVE IT.


Comments are closed.