Sacked DhiFM journalists protest over unfair dismissal, editorial interference

Six journalists from private radio station DhiFM launched a protest outside the media company’s offices today, claiming unfair dismissal and editorial pressure for negative coverage of the government.

The journalists began protesting this afternoon outside Champa Guest House, which houses DhiFM and DhiTV, holding up placards that read: “Protect the rights of the journalists” and “Stop using media as a propaganda machine”.

“We are all protesting because our organisation terminated its staff in violation of the Employment Act and because it has also broken media ethics,” said one of the journalists. “Four of us here were sacked and the other two resigned.”

The journalist claimed that the sacked reporters were not given notice and were owed unpaid salaries.

“We cannot work freely. This is a very biased media,” he continued. “The management has a lot of influence on our work. We have to write stories the way that they want, according to their idea of politics.”

He added that the journalists did not accept the reason for the dismissals given by the management, which was reportedly to cut costs, as the station was presently hiring more staff.

Gufthaq Ajeel, 19, told Minivan News that he quit the station in protest after management allegedly leaked the source of a news report he filed about unhappy employees at the Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH).

“They went into my personal folder and leaked it,” he said.

As Article 28 of the constitution protects journalists from being compelled to disclose sources, Gufthaq said that he had filed a complaint with the police on Wednesday.

Moreover, he added, reporters at DhiFM were occasionally told to skew reports for an anti-government slant.

Following DhiFM’s coverage of a large rally in Male’ by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in July, Qufthaq explained, the DhiFM newsroom was shut down and four of its journalists fired.

Response

The protesters called for the resignation of DhiFM CEO Masoodh Hilmy and other senior management.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Masoodh denied the claims of his former employees.

“We had to terminate three of them due to punctuality and disciplinary issues, and the other three resigned of their own wishes,” he said. “We provided all the allowances and salaries mentioned in the Employment Act for the staff we terminated.”

He added that prior warnings were given to the staff verbally before the decision to dismiss was made.

“Nobody can handle it when one is too much,” he said.

Masoodh further denied the allegations of bias and undue influence on journalists working for the private broadcaster.

“If you asked a staff here you will understand, we have no influence on the journalists,” he said.

President of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Ahmed Hiriga Zahir, told Minivan News that one of the journalists had contacted the MJA this morning notifying him of the intent to protest, “but otherwise we know little about it. We have not yet spoken to DhiFM management to get their side.”

The MJA was willing to assist the journalists by lobbying DhiFM management if requested, he said, but noted that the MJA had yet to evolve into a  journalists’ union and was more focused on promoting issues such as media freedom.

Asked if the MJA was concerned about allegations from the sacked journalists of editorial interference, he observed that “media organisations have the freedom to decide whether they want to be pro or anti-government.”

“In countries like the US it is common for media [outlets] to even endorse political candidates, but that should not affect the [ethical] standards of their news reporting. Media’s role is still to keep the government accountable,” Hiriga stated.

Visiting journalism trainer Tiare Rath, Iraq Editorial Manager for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), last month identified resistance among senior editorial leadership in the country to evolve away from politically partisan media.

“I have been really impressed with news judgement here, and the understanding of the basic principles of journalism,” Rath said of her experience training young reporters in the Maldives.

“But on the other hand, one of the major issues all my students talked about is resistance among newsroom leadership – editors and publishers. Even if the journalists support and understand the principles being taught, they consistently tell me they cannot apply them,” she said. “This is a very, very serious problem that needs to be addressed.”

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13 thoughts on “Sacked DhiFM journalists protest over unfair dismissal, editorial interference”

  1. This country is ruled by Maldives Pvt Ltd. Recently the CEO changed after 30 years. New CEO is Mohamed Nasheed. Shareholders are Universal family, Champa family, Gasim Family, Sunland Family, AAA family and more. These shareholders have their Annual General Meetings (AGM's) and board meetings at Company Office (People's Majlis) very often. Recently the new CEO was about to be sacked by the Board..when the CEO gave the existing shareholders Bonus Shares!(look at who won the bids of Male' land in South Harbour) And tooks some photo's with ceremonial event! This country will always be ruled by these elite families and poor, middle income families would be shown dreams!!! look at the Gayoom regime..full of these useless elite family members in ministries, SOE's, boards..and what not!! History is repeating with New CEO President Nasheed! Latest news is Sale Shop owner (Rashad) son Amru got promoted as CEO and MD of MTCC!! What a joke!! More mockery of ordinary poor Maldivians would come!! Gayoom started it,,,and story and legacy follows!! We need a society of meritocracy...and equality! But we are far from it!!!

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  2. This Amru fellow of MTCC had only worked for an year in his entire career. He returned from Malaysia only last year. Can he be at the helm of an organization like MTCC??? It is highly doubtful!!!

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  3. @ extremist: temper temper..now now ...i think i can see a little green eyed monster lurking in the corner there. tsk tsk.
    hope you are feeling a little better after your little rant. but it wont change anything. you are just jealous of people who are more successful than u.

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  4. MJA is a useless biased group of politically inclined people.. if this was a case with MNBC or another organization that leans towards the government ideologies.... MJA will jump around like headless chickens... MJA, you have lost all credibility.. Those who seek fair impartial oversight should remove themselves from MJA and possibly form another organization..

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  5. Gufthaq is a very very hard working young journalist. I have heard him giving news items during rallys. I am sorry for these young people. People need to guide them and make them responsible journalists.Gud luck to u all. Dont give up the career just face the challenge and walk tall.

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  6. Acknowledging that Maldivian have problems with turning up to work and being on time etc, one of the biggest problems is that journalists have difficulties to be objective.

    I know that VTV producers and reporters were having difficulty to keep the the TV on the right track because Gasim was using it for his propaganda. Sure it is his thing so he can do what he likes but then it is a biased channel and the general public cannot rely on it for unbiased information. This will be a problem for journalists who want to report honestly.

    Our Maldivian Laws on employment will be controversial and probably would not apply to journalists in "employment" after all if they retaliate, then they can be breaching regulations. On the other hand it is easy for the employer to sack the journalist as he is sacking an employee...as simple as that.

    Many countries stipulate a private investors share on a media company but it may be difficult here because once again only a few rich has the capacity to spend.

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  7. @temper tantrum!

    Dear why would I be jelous? Remember I an extremist! Why would I be jelous this world? ORDINARY FOLKS ARE FOOLED BY MALDIVIAN POLITICIANS AND ELITE FAMILIES!! THEY THINK THEY HAVE DEMOCRACY!! WHILE ITS NOT DEMOCRACY...ITS JUST ANOTHER FORM OF DICTATORSHIP!! SAME AS IN SAUDI ARABIA, ISRAEL, USA, EUROPE, IRAN, IRAQ, AFGAN, EGYPT!! ORDINARY MALDIVIANS ARE SLAVED BY THESE ELITE MALDIVIANS WHO THINK THEY AND THEIR CHILREN ARE SUPPERIOR TO ORDINARY MALDIVIANS!! wHAT A JOKE!!

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