President condemns attacks on media

President Mohamed Nasheed has condemned the attacks against the media following attacks on DhiTV and Haveeru on 15 March.

The president said the government would not tolerate “threats or actions against freedom of the press”.

“The Maldivian media is free and open now,” Nasheed said, adding that the Maldivian government “will always support the efforts of the journalists to keep this freedom alive and will value their efforts.”

He urged the public to cooperate with police in identifying the suspects.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile called on the police to “seriously investigate” death threats made against journalists by extremist bloggers.

Concerns from the media

Independent MP and former Minister of Information, Mohamed Nasheed, said the issue was one of “political punching. People in the government are accusing opposition media and people in the opposition media are accusing the government.”

He said the media has always been divided into two camps, and sometimes looking at the same editorial content from different news agencies “you feel as if two different stories are coming out.”

“Political activists, the religious quarter and violent criminals” are against the media, he said, explaining that the struggle for press freedom was a “tug of war.”

“This is where the temperature needs to be brought down. We need to stop politicising the media and work with them.”

He added that “a democracy cannot see the media as a friend”, but should instead treat it as a medium to dialogue.

Managing Director of Miadhu, Abdullah Lateef, said “so far the government has not been able to give the media enough protection” from violent attacks.

He claimed the former government “used gangsters,” who “still don’t understand this is not Gayoom’s regime.”

“These gangsters don’t value the media,” Lateef said. “They think they can do anything; they attack anyone.”

He said that because the government had not shown the public the value of the media and the work the media was doing, they did not value it: “Even when we go to a scene, it is a risk we are taking.”

Lateef said he had “personally received a lot of threats”, and claimed that “politicians will call and try to make us scared.”

But he noted that “this government has done a lot for us, like giving us the freedom to write without being arrested. I am not afraid of my death – the former government gave me enough threats so I don’t mind.”

Public Concern

The Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) has also “strongly condemned” the attacks on media.

A statement from the HRCM said the organisation “was sad that people are instigating fear among journalists at a time when Maldivian media is not very stable.”

HRCM said it believed the incidents had occurred because of the “judicial system’s reluctance to convict people. They are released into society and are not abiding by laws and regulations and respecting human rights.”

The statement notes that such cases of violence are “alarmingly increasing” and “the Commission is calling for the authorities to take legal action against the people who are releasing these criminals into society.”

“To stop these things from happening we are calling on stake-holders, government, authorities, media, civil society, NGOs and the public to work together.”

Meanwhile the Maldives Journalists’ Association (MJA) condemned threats made against journalists and bloggers and the “continuous attempts to intimidate press freedom by the extremists in the name of Islam.”

The MJA called on the government to take action against growing extremism and said it believed there would be a solution “if the president and all the institutions work to raise awareness.”