Maldives to be the “best country” for press freedom, says President Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed has said that the Maldives intends to be “the best country in the world in terms of press freedom.”

In a message to the Commonwealth media development workshop, a four day training event that started this morning at Holiday Inn in Male’, Nasheed said the government wanted the Maldives to have  “the most free and most professional media in the world.”

”We strongly believe that press freedom is important for consolidating democracy,” said Nasheed. ”We also believe that development can only be achieved through a transparent and free discussion of ideas.”

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, and President of Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir also addressed participants in the workshop.

Secretary General of Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma, in his message to the participants, highlighted the role of journalism in the society and explained how  important a balanced news article was.

”Journalism is an honourable profession,” Sharma said. ”You can hold accountable both the government and the private sector.”

He said that members of the press played a pivotal role in revealing the truth and upholding the values and principles that would lead to a just society.

In his address, Dr Sawad said journalists in the Maldives “are not responsible”, and urged them to be more professional, sophisticated and accountable.

Dr Sawad said that in the past the free pens of the Maldivian journalists were held hostage.

”But today we are seeing what we dreamed we would see in the 80s,” Sawad said. ”Now we have a new constitution and new legislation.”

He urged journalists at the workshop to convey the truth with their pens, adding that ”the government will not let you down.”

The Commonwealth media workshop is a four day event being conducted by the Commonwealth in collaboration with Maldives Journalists Association (MJA). Around 25 local journalists are taking part, including Minivan News.


Commenwealth media development workshop opens tomorrow

The Commonwealth will host a four-day media development workshop tomorrow at Holiday Inn, in conjunction with the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA).

The event will launch tomorrow morning at 10:00am with a speech by Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad.

The four day workshop will be led by two senior editors from Singapore. Bhagman Singh, Senior Editor, NewsHub, MediaCorp News, which owns and operates the regional satellite news network, Channel NewsAsia, will sessions on TV and radio journalism, while Jayandra Menon, Deputy Foreign Editor of The Straits Times, an English language daily, will share his skills on newspaper and online reporting.

Minivan News Editor JJ Robinson will also be present a session on Tuesday morning.

Deputy spokesperson for the Commonwealth Secretariat, Manoah Esipisu, said the workshop would “bring together two Commonwealth neighbours, Singapore and Maldives, in the sharing of expertise and experiences in media development.”

“This cross-cultural exchange will help to broaden and deepen understanding on journalism and the influence of politics and governance, culture, tradition, environment, education and technology,” Esipisu said.

“We are delighted that Mr Bhagman and Mr Menon have put their substantial experience in reporting Asia and global affairs at the disposal of their colleagues in Maldives, and look to their work in enhancing a sound tradition of media professionalism, leading to greater consistency in the accuracy, fairness and balance of news reports,” he added.


Commonwealth’s lustre fading, finds survey

The Commonwealth has a very low profile among the public, especially the young, and policymakers, according to a new global public consultation.

Less than one-third of the people interviewed as part of the Commonwealth Conversation, to mark the association’s 60th anniversary, could name any of its activities, with the majority only able to cite the Commonwealth Games.

Policymakers struggled to identify areas to the Commonwealth clearly added value. Those working in Commonwealth organisations expressed frustration that the association was being neglected by member governments and lacked an ambitious vision for its future.

“This is a wake up call for the Commonwealth. After 60 years of fantastic work, the Commonwealth has to choose between quietly retiring or boldly revitalising itself for the 21st century,” said Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, director of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

The Commonwealth Conversation surveyed tens of thousands of people across almost all its 53 member states via online and offline activities.

The investigation’s findings further revealed that the Commonwealth was “more often valued by Anglophiles and those nostalgic for an imperial past than those committed to the internationalist values of the association”.

The report suggested rebuilding the Commonwealth’s profile to highlight its principles, priorities and the people involved.

Contributing to the report, Kenyan Vice President H E Kalonzo Musyoka said, “We don’t hear the voice of the Commonwealth loud enough. It is a very well established body but I do feel that it needs a sense of renewal.”

Last week, Commonwealth heads met in Trinidad and Tobago for their annual meeting where climate change was the main topic on the agenda.

Leaders welcomed a US$10 billion climate package to help developing countries ahead of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen this month, which analysts have argued will help revive the Commonwealth’s standing.

Non-Commonwealth leaders such as Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made appearances for the first time.

In a statement at the end of the two-day conference, leaders agreed to consider strengthening the role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to enable it to deal with the full range of serious and persistent violations of the association’s fundamental values.

The Maldives was included in the group, established by the Commonwealth heads of government in 1995 to uphold the Harare Declaration, which lays down the association’s fundamental values and membership criteria.

Leaders expressed concern over the deterioration in the political situation in Fiji with regard to its adherence to fundamental Commonwealth values and said they would consider Zimbabwe’s re-entry into the organisation over the next few years.

In addition to signing a climate change declaration, participants agreed to admit Rwanda as the 54th member; a decision which alarmed some human rights organisations.

Also at the summit, Sri Lanka was blocked from hosting the next meeting of Commonwealth leaders in protest at the country’s military repression against the Tamil population earlier this year.

While the Sri Lankan government succeeded in ending a 26-year civil war against the Tamil Tigers, they have been accused of widespread human rights abuses in achieving their goal.

Instead, countries voted for Australia to host next year’s conference.


Developing countries to share US$10 billion climate package

Commonwealth leaders welcomed a US$10 billion annual package for developing countries ahead of the landmark United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen this December.

Leaders of the 53 countries, among them President Mohamed Nasheed, issued a declaration committing to “achieving the strongest possible outcome” in the Danish capital.

“The latest scientific evidence indicates that in order to avoid dangerous climate change likely to have catastrophic impacts we must find solutions using all available means,” the declaration stated. “We must act now.”

Participants at the two-day annual Commonwealth meeting in Trinidad and Tobago agreed that an international legally binding agreement at Copenhagen was essential and pledged their support to Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen to deliver a comprehensive treaty.

Negotiations over the past two years have virtually stalled with developed and developing countries unable to agree on the level of emission cuts and financial assistance to be given.

However a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao earlier this month breathed new life into the climate change talks as each agreed to lobby for a legally binding deal at Copenhagen.

In their declaration, leaders of the Commonwealth agreed that developed countries should continue to take the lead on cutting their emissions.

“And developing countries, in line with their national circumstances, should also take action to achieve a substantial deviation from business-as-usual emissions with financial and technical support,” the declaration said.

Copenhagen fund

Commonwealth heads welcomed the initiative to establish a Copenhagen Launch Fund to start next year and building to US$10 billion a year by 2012.

The goal received backing by French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said the UK would contribute US$1.3 billion over the next three years.

“The rest of Europe will do so,” Brown said at the Commonwealth summit. “And I believe American will do so as well.”

US Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “We need to get every country on board.”

Leaders also called for fast funding for the poorest countries as well as those most vulnerable to climate change and requested that 10 per cent of the fund be put aside for small island states and associated low-lying coastal states.

“The needs of the most vulnerable must be addressed. Their voice must be heard and capacity to engage strengthened. Many of us from small island states, low-lying coastal states and least developed countries face challenges, yet have contributed least to the problem of climate change,” the declaration said.


Scientists said last week the effects of climate change were being felt faster than anticipated and oceans were rising by 3.4 mm per year, greater than predicted.

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, the Maldives is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. In 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that sea level rises of up to 59 cm within a century would swamp many of the Maldives’ 1,192 coral islands.

“My country would not survive,” said Nasheed at a conference of vulnerable nations earlier this month. “The sums of money on offer are so low, it is like arriving at an earthquake zone with a dustpan and brush,” he added.

In their declaration, Commonwealth heads further called for support for adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building in addition to financial assistance.