The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has called on the editors of Sun Online and Sun magazine to issue a public apology following the publication of a series of stories in which journalists wrote detailed and lurid accounts of their visit to an illegal brothel.
The articles, which now rank as ‘most viewed’ on the Sun Online website, followed three reporters on an ‘undercover’ operation in which they solicited sex from women in massage parlours.
‘’The context of the articles published on Sun Online investigating illegal prostitution in the Maldives contained phrasing suggesting that the journalists may have engaged in ‘sinful’ activities, and were written in such a way as to encourage these activities,” said the MMC.
The MMC claimed the articles violated its media code of ethics, including Article 1 which states that no media should publish anything against the constitution or Islam, and article 9 which stipulates that media should not publish pornography, sex stories, stories that encourage sex or anything that describes such activities.
‘’While it is the responsibility of journalists to research and report on unacceptable things that occur, the media should obtain information and report it accordingly to the religion of Islam, public order and in a way that does not undermine the dignity or professionalism of the Maldivian media,’’ the MMC said.
The Sun’s investigation of illegal prostitution in the Maldives revealed that ‘massage’ and medical treatment centers were being used a front for Male’s sex industry.
The Sun journalists who patronised the salons had ‘massages’ and reported that illegal prostitution was conducted widely and freely inside such places.
Some salons offered them group sex, while most provided a list of available girls with ‘special features’ for different prices.
Executive Editor of Sun Online Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said the company was unwilling to comment pending the police investigation, after the MMC forward the case to the Prosecutor General yesterday.
However Sun magazine editor Shinan Ali said the company was prepared to issue a public apology “as the MMC is the media’s governing authority.”
“We will look into the context and the way we reported the issue,” he said, but noted that he was not surprised at the response to the article.
“As the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has said, this kind of reporting is new to the community and we need to get used to it.”
Ali said he was “really proud” of the journalists involved and what they had reported. The articles did not explicitly state that they had engaged in illegal activity, he noted.
“We are a 100 percent Muslim society and our journalists are Muslim, and they should not be exposed to this kind of illegal activity – this is the reason why they did not state this directly.”
The focus on the journalists was “sidelining the real issue,” Ali said, observing that explicit material was already readily available in the form of songs and TV shows.
“But these illegal things are happening every hour in our own society, and we need to talk about them. Readers need to get used to this kind of reporting,” he said.