DRP deputy criticises capability of certain government officials

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef has criticised certain elements within the present government to local media for not making “adequate efforts” to address the country’s recent economic and political upheavals.

Shareef claimed in local newspaper Haveeru that some top officials in the present coalition government – of which the DRP is one of several parties represented – had not shown themselves to be “capable” or “proficient”.

According to the report, Shareef expressed particular concern over the conduct of the Foreign Ministry, which he alleged had not sufficiently detailed the current situation in the Maldives since the government came to power.  The opposition Madivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed that it was replaced by the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan in a “coup d’etat” on February 7.  The government has denied the accusations.

Shareef also reportedly raised concerns over previous Foreign Ministry accusations that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) had sided with the now opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – a claim he did not agree with.

Shareef told local media that despite the “major achievement” of the coalition remaining in power for its first 100 days, it had been difficult for the DRP to “execute it policies and beliefs” in line with other parties.

He claimed that he was confident that several ministries overseen by DRP representatives, which include areas such as finance and tourism, were functioning “efficiently”.


Germany calls for Dr Waheed’s govt to “consolidate legitimacy” with “independent inquiry”

Germany has called for Dr Waheed’s government to “consolidate its national and international legitimacy” by holding an “independent inquiry” into the circumstances around Nasheed’s resignation this week.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed “deep concern about recent developments in the Maldives, particularly the violent attacks against elected officials and supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).”

Germany has taken note of President Waheed’s intention to form a government of “national unity”.

“The participation of all major parties represented in Parliament will be a decisive precondition to its political authority,” Westerwelle said, calling on the new leadership “to uphold the principles and norms of democracy and the rule of law and guarantee the right to peaceful demonstrations.”

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years prior to Mohamed Nasheed’s victory in the country’s first democratic election in 2008, meanwhile hit out at international media in an interview with AFP, calling them “biased for depicting this as a coup or something illegal”.

“Mr Waheed is the democratically elected president of the Maldives, according to our constitution. I called him and congratulated him,” Gayoom told AFP over the phone from Malaysia.

He denied personal involvement in what Nasheed’s side has termed a coup d’état after “200 police officers and 80 Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers” sided with opposition protesters on Tuesday.

“No, I had no involvement at all. I had no personal involvement in anything like a coup organised by myself,” AFP reported Gayoom as saying. “He (Nasheed) resigned on his own.”

Gayoom said he would return home “within days”, and did not rule out a bid to reclaim the presidency.

“I haven’t decided yet. You can say I am keeping my options open. I don’t think I will but I cannot rule it out. It depends on the circumstances,” he told AFP.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is meanwhile sending his special envoy M Ganapathi to assess the situation in the Maldives. High level delegations from the UN and Commonwealth are active in the capital, while US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake is due to arrive tomorrow.

Male’ remains calm this evening. But meanwhile, far from the diplomats and international media thronging in Male’, MDP supporters in the southern-most city of Addu are alleging that a brutal police and PPM crackdown against the former ruling party is taking place in retaliation for the destruction of court and police buildings on Wednesday evening.

An MDP member told Minivan News this evening that he was dragged from his house, cuffed, and thrown into a pickup “like a dog.” He was taken to Gan with 33 others where the station had been burned by Nasheed supporters on Wednesday evening.

“They poured petrol around us and said: “We will burn you, we can do anything because no one knows where are you are and no one will come to save you,” he said.


Media monitoring report hints at bias of local media

Transparency Maldives has published a report monitoring the performance and bias of six media outlets between March 23 and April 4 of this year.

The six outlets evaluated were DhiTV, MNBC One and VTV (television), and Haveeru, Miadhu and Minivan News (print).

News content produced by these outlets during the reporting period was categorised by subject (corruption, politics, human rights, etc), the air time and centimetres of coverage recorded, and the tone assessed (positive, negative, neutral).

This was reported by three people who ranked the connotations of words and pictures from positive to negative on a scale of 1-5.

Transparency Maldives observed notable limitations in the report, most significantly the small time period (two weeks) of monitoring. There was also no analysis of the order of news stories indicating the priority of subjects to the Maldivian press, or the omission of coverage.

Content was also subject to the news agenda of the short reporting period, and the subject matter of stories analysed did not incorporate stories relating to crime, gender or religion.

Key headlines on Minivan during the reporting period included: ‘Death of tourist at Kuredhoo Island Resort last year was accidental, finds UK inquest’,  ‘Parliament falling short of public expectations despite work rate, says Speaker Shahid,’ ‘Mahlouf calls on DRP supporters to shun “Thasmeen faction” rally’, ‘Blackmarket dollar crackdown won’t address demand, warn businesses, financial experts’, ‘Judges legitimised JSC’s actions with their silence’, and ‘Staff threw stones at intruder and left him in the water to drown, alleges Baros staff member’.


DhiTV was the first private television station to be registered in the Maldives in 2008, by local businessman Mohamed ‘Champa’ Moosa. It faces allegations from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of favouring the opposition.

25 percent of DhiTV’s coverage of parliament and 36 percent of its coverage of government during the reporting period was negative. Other subjects with a high weight of negative coverage included President Mohamed Nasheed (41 percent),  Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (43 percent), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (22 percent).

DhiTV’s most balanced coverage was of police, which was 80 percent neutral.


MNBC is a 100 percent government owned corporation that manages the assets of former state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM). It is currently locked in a legal dispute for its assets with the Maldives Broadcast Corporation (MBC), a body created by the then opposition-majority parliament. It faces allegations from opposition parties of favouring the government.

Twelve percent of MNBC’s coverage of the government during the reporting period was positive,  and four percent negative (the remainder was neutral). 17 percent of the station’s coverage of President Mohamed Nasheed was positive and 83 percent was neutral – there was no negative coverage of the President during the reporting period.

All of MNBC’s coverage of the council, police and Adhaalath Party was neutral.


Villa TV (VTV) is owned and funded by local business tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim, and faces allegations of political bias due to the nature of its ownership.

VTV’s coverage of parliament was very neutral (90 percent), while its coverage of government during the reporting period was 35 percent negative.

Coverage of Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction of the opposition (DRP) was overwhelmingly negative (67 percent), significantly more so than its coverage of the MDP (20 percent negative to six percent positive).

31 percent of VTV’s coverage of its owner’s Jumhoree Party (JP) was positive – only two percent was negative. The report noted that the space afforded the JP was “significantly high”.


Newspaper Haveeru is the largest national daily with a print run of 3000 copies. It was first published by Mohamed Zahir Hussain, who according to Transparency “has close ties with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom”.

Haveeru’s coverage of the government during the reporting period leaned towards negative (12 percent negative, 7 percent positive), and coverage of the MDP was almost twice as negative as positive (21 percent to 10 percent). Coverage of parliament was more negative (27 percent) than positive (nine percent).

Coverage of the DRP was 29 percent negative and only one percent positive. 46 percent of its coverage of Thasmeen’s faction was negative (to six percent positive), while its coverage of Gayoom’s faction was more balanced (32 percent negative, 13 percent positive). Coverage of the People’s Alliance (PA), founded by Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen, was 60 percent negative.

Twelve percent of Haveeru’s coverage of police was negative, compared to two percent positive.


Miadhu was founded by Ahmed Abdullah, the Minister of Energy, Environment and Water under the former government.

“Miadhu boasts a record of having no complaints about their publications so far, according to the Editor Abdul Latheef,” the report noted. Miadhu claimed to be circulating 3000 copies.

Miadhu’s coverage of the government was 17 percent positive and 19 percent negative, however its coverage of President Nasheed was weighted towards the positive (18 percent positive to 3 percent negative).

The newspaper’s coverage of the DRP was more significantly negative (12 percent) than positive (two percent).

Miadhu’s coverage of police, council, court and the elections commission was neutral.

Minivan News

Minivan News was analysed by Transparency alongside with print media, despite it being an online publication. Articles were printed and content physically measured in centimetres.

Initially established by the MDP in 2005 “due to the futility of attempting to cover [then] opposition news in the conservative media outlets that existed then”, Minivan News and the now defunct print publication ‘Minivan Daily’ met with strong interference from the former government, with several of its foreign reporters being deported.

“Many staff of Minivan were subjected to police intimidation, threats and harassment,” Transparency’s report noted, while the newspaper’s office in Colombo was raided by Sri Lankan police after it was falsely reported to be “a hub for dealing in arms.”

Following the change of power in 2008 the Minivan Daily newspaper was disbanded together with all funding from politically-affiliated sources. The Minivan News website was passed to a succession of foreign editors who attempted to establish it as a credible and objective source of news of the Maldives, and it has since relied on income generated through banner advertising.

Minivan’s coverage of the government during the reporting period was more significantly negative (19 percent) than positive (four percent). Coverage of President Mohamed Nasheed was generally balanced at 9 percent negative and 10 percent positive.

Minivan’s coverage of key institutions was overwhelmingly neutral, including the President’s office (100 percent neutral), High Court (100 percent), Supreme Court (100 percent), Council (100 percent), Local Government Authority (100 percent), Anti-Corruption Commission (100 percent) and parliament (98 percent). The exceptions were the Judicial Services Commission, of which coverage was 19 percent negative and 0 percent positive, and the Civil Court (44 percent of coverage was negative).

Coverage of the DRP inclined towards negative (34 percent) over positive (6 percent). Coverage of Thasmeen’s faction during the reporting period was 76 percent negative, while coverage of Gayoom’s faction was 23 percent negative. Coverage of the PA was 62 percent negative.

Minivan’s coverage of the MDP was slightly more negative that it was positive (8 percent to 6 percent respectively).

Transparency noted that Minivan’s coverage of the Adhaalath Party was 100 percent positive.


Transparency Maldives’ Project Director, Aiman Rasheed, acknowledged that the results were impacted by the key stories and news agenda of the short reporting period, “but even though two weeks is the minimum reporting period possible, you can already see the patterns emerge.”

Transparency’s Director Ilham Mohamed said media’s coverage in the week of the local council elections was also analysed, but said the results would be shared individually with media outlets as one week was too short a reporting period for a statistically-sound analysis. Transparency was considering expanding the project to include a longer monitoring period, she said.

Key recommendations in the report for media outlets included ensuring that journalists employed are provided with professional training and apprenticeships, and curbing the influence of owners and financial interests.

“Editorial policies of all media outlets should respect the principles of fair and balanced coverage and provide all parties with equal opportunities to present their view,” Transparency stated. “This is especially so during election period where the election laws specifically call for fair coverage to all candidates.”

Several political parties had announced boycotts of various media outlets on the assumption that coverage was politically influenced, the report stated, calling for an end to such boycotts.

“Political parties should recognise and respect the independence of journlists and media to ensure equal access to interiews, press conferences, party functions and access to speakers at panel discussions.”

The report also called for groups such as the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) and South Asian Federation for Media Associations (SAFMA) “to play a stronger role in advocating for media freedoms.”

Download the full report (English)


Letter on bias

Dear Sir,

Being much interested in the Maldives, I read your internet newspaper quite often. However, I want to let you know that I was recently quite disappointed with your publication regarding two recent articles, both of them about events in Noonu Velidhoo.

The first one, about the arrest of a certain Abbas, because of the illegal possession of alcohol.

You write:

“Deputy leader of DRP, Umar Naseer, said Abbas was not the leader of DRP’s Noonu Atoll wing.

“He’s just a normal DRP member, an activist,” said Umar.

”I have idea how this happened, but I know he did not drink, because his breath-test results were negative to alcohol.”

Umar said there were no alcoholics in the opposition DRP, and claimed that there “were only alcoholics in the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).”

Well… if you had checked other sources in Velidhoo, and there are many, you would have heard that this Abbas is for sure, and still is today, one (if not the most prominent) of the leaders of the local DRP indeed.

Not up to me to judge about his political activities, but the facts are there.

But more disturbing to me is that you publish that last sentence, where Mr Umar says that alcoholics are only within the MDP. Again I have no judgement as such on this, but as far as know, there has never been anyone from the (local) MDP in Noonu Velidhoo who has been involved in anything to do with illegal alcohol, nor the use of it, or the illegal trade of it.

I have also not said that DRP are alcoholics. The fact remains is that Abbas [allegedly] got caught with alcohol and he is very much involved indeed in the local DRP. A simple Google search shows enough of that.

I cannot understand that you just publish such a political, and very much insulting, statement from a DRP leader about his opponents. I do not understand that you don’t even ask the people who are obviously accused by such a statement, the MDP, that you don’t even ask them for a reply on such statements.

It’s far from objective writing, its more like a political manifesto. Neutral journalism requests to her both sides, to check sources.

The second article is about the suicide of a 24 year-old man in the same Noonu Velidhoo.

There you quote an island official as saying:

“According to what most of the islanders are saying, he had this problem with his girlfriend’s father; he had not been accepted by him. He lived together on the island with his girlfriend from Male’ and they were about to get married, but her Dad sent a letter to the court saying he would not give the consent for the marriage to take place.”

Well well …. “most of the islanders are saying …. “, you give impression, by quoting the official, that you have done a kind of survey even … “most islanders”?

I am very close to the family involved… and NONE of them would ever agree that the disagreement of the father of the girl was the reason of his suicide.

The facts are: indeed the guy had a relationship with the girl, and indeed her father did not approve of that at all. Which happened already TWO months ago. But the couple, though feeling bit sad with that, had already decided last July to approach the court about this and their marriage was approved already!

Again you published an opinion without even asking the people who were involved. It would have been piece of cake to ask the opinion of the family themselves.

It’s such a pity in the ongoing process to a real democracy in our country.



All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter piece, please submit it to [email protected]

Partisan media obstructing journalists from reporting ethically

The Maldivian media needs to move beyond the basics of reporting and on to media ethics if it is to build its credibility, become independent and break free from the influence of partisan politics, urged visiting journalism trainer Tiare Rath, Iraq Editorial Manager for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

Rath, an American journalist and trainer who has worked in the US, Africa, Asia and the Middle East for companies including CNN and the New York Times, spoke last Thursday to a small group of Maldivian journalists and NGO representatives about the challenges and opportunities for journalism in a young democracy.

“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,” Rath said. “This is a very, very serious problem that needs to be addressed.”

Rath compared the state of the Maldives media with that in Iraq, “where most of the media is partisan because that’s where the money comes from.”

“They haven’t been able to develop an advertising market, so political parties and powerful individuals back their own media outlets,” she said. “There have been a lot of issues with bias, media ownership and political pressuring of [Iraqi] journalists, and they don’t have the level of legal protection enjoyed by the media in the Maldives.”

However, despite the high-levels of violence obstructing democracy in Iraq, “the news media has flourished – there are more than 300 newspapers in Baghdad alone, and across the country there are thousands of newspapers and many small radio stations, and a lot of news sites and blogs.”

Media in countries like Afghanistan face additional problems, Rath added, “such as the lack of educated young people in the post-Taliban environment who want to be journalists. That has been a major issue.”

In Afghanistan the threat to journalists was primarily harassment and imprisonment, Rath explained, “and there have been efforts by the government to block out the media when it pushes too hard, especially on certain issues like drugs or warlords. The government just issues a media blackout and refuses to engage with the media.”

Even where it was present, “the response to any kind of critical coverage has been really hard. Again it’s a partisan media, because the traditional power brokers are the ones backing and financing it, rather than it being based on advertising [revenue].”

So while it was troubled, the situation facing the media in the Maldives was “a breath of fresh air” in comparison, Rath said.

“While there are challenges, a lot of other countries in a similar period following democratic transition are facing a lot more violence and oppression of the press,” she observed.

Many challenges faced by the Maldivian media were common to countries shaking off the vestiges of authoritarian regimes, she noted.

“A pattern I’ve definitely noticed in newly emerging democracies is that media retains the old style of attending press conferences and spitting out what was said, without doing their critical analysis. When you attempt to be objective it doesn’t mean your sources will always like you, and there may be backlash.”

Even in the West the media faced a lot of criticism, Rath said, “particularly for bias”.

In the UK journalism was the third least respected profession, and in the US it was second last, “right behind lawyers”, she pointed out.

Escaping powerbrokers

For media in an emerging democracy to develop beyond a partisan press and become independent, free from a legacy of political powerbrokers, it must evolve as a business, Rath explained.

“Advertisers do care about politics, but more often they care about money,” she said, “and at least in the US, that means they care only about circulation.

“If you have partisan media, one of the issues you have is that your market is really limited – you’re preaching to the choir. The other audience isn’t going to listen to you. But if you are impartial, there are broader sources of funding purely based on business value. If a news organisation emerges with a real and strong reputation for independence, and strives for objectivity, I do think the advertising dollars will follow, simply because of readership and audience reach.”

Rath said that while she respected the concept of media that was openly partisan and did not strive for impartiality, a trait common to a lot of media in Europe if not the US and UK, “I think it can be damaging in many ways because the credibility of the media is so important. If you don’t even aim for objectivity your market is going to remain very small, and the media is going to be credible only with the party members you are aiming towards.”

Initally, she said, this meant independent media needed a source of funding – an investment – “because it is about money for news organisations. It is important to have a source of funding, whether this is an individual or an advertising base, that cares more about independent media in principle, or who cares purely about money and so would be willing to invest in an independent media outlet that had a lot of potential for growth.”

Another step was ensuring that journalists had an organisation independent of their own newsrooms, such as a professional association, “dedicated entirely to good journalistic practice.”

“I think journalists need a place to meet. One thing I am concerned about in the Maldives is that the political polarisation may also have affected the journalists themselves. The Maldives is very small and everyone feels affected by politics, and has a personal connection to politics.

“I think it is really important for journalists from different news organisations to meet and discuss journalistic issues together. It’s also important to discuss ethics and professional standards, and to debate amongst yourselves what kind of media you want to have. And at the end of the day, if the media comes under attack, they will need to come together and defend themselves.”

The Maldives had a free press, Rath observed, and now it had to fight for respect – “a widespread challenge for anyone trying to fight for ethical journalism.”

“You’ve got a free press. Now how are you going to establish that press, how are you going to build its credibility, and what kind of values do you want it to have? You can technically do whatever you want – but a free press means having responsibility.”

Not as simple

Accepting that responsibility was not as simple as just reporting objectivity, Rath said.

“The model of objective and unbiased journalism has been rightly criticised because of the angle a news station takes on a story. It’s not necessarily bias, it’s part of news judgement, and it’s a huge debate across the industry,” she explained.

“But especially in a new or emerging democracy where there is a lot of political polarisation, it is very important to strive for objectivity to build the credibility of news organisations and to practice these traditional values of journalism, rather than to just be completely caught up in political debate.”

Journalists themselves could push towards more proactive journalism, rather than reacting to press releases and statements by political figures, Rath noted.

“I’m a big proponent of enterprise journalism, where you notice trends, talk to sources and do a feature on it – issues based journalism.

“I’d like to see that in the Maldives, but are there enough bodies? And enough money? It’s still small industry – journalists are assigned to small stories, and when you’re doing 1-3 stories a day you don’t have time to write up a great feature or do non-reactive news because you have to follow events going on around the country. But it’s a huge opportunity in the market.”