Vice president assures government’s commitment to press freedom

The present administration will not seek to penalise Maldivian journalists for free expression or critical reporting of the government, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has assured.

“The main reason for this is because this government believes and remembers that the hard work of journalists contributed to it coming into being,” Dr Jameel said in a speech at a function held last night to celebrate the 35th anniversary of newspaper Haveeru.

“I believe that one of the main bases for the stability in this country today is the hard work done by the diligent journalists of Maldives, media outlets, and those active in those outlets, when what was happening inside a government wounded human rights and dignity and cast a dark shadow on the nation’s riches.”

Maldivian journalists have made sacrifices that the nation should be proud of in the country’s “experience of democracy,” he added, noting that journalists faced threats to their lives.

No government official or cabinet minister would attempt to intimidate journalists as a result of their reporting on government policies and programmes, Jameel pledged.

“I also assure you that we will do everything possible to ensure that such a thing does not happen,” he said.

Jameel’s remarks were echoed by President Abdulla Yameen in a speech in the island of Eydhafushi last month, where he vowed that his administration would not take action against the media “no matter how far journalists take the freedom offered by this government.”

Even now in newspapers and TV channels they are talking about various matters. Regarding the government or responsible officials in the government, they are saying there are people in the government who have committed various crimes,” he said.

“[But] we have not filed such a case at court. We have not filed such a case at the ACC. So there will be press freedom in the Maldives under this government to an extent that journalists have never seen before. Criticism of the government’s actions is not that big a problem for this government. Talking about myself or my character is not a problem for me. So why wouldn’t there be press freedom?”

Yameen’s remarks came shortly after his administration faced criticism over the absence of either the president or a cabinet minister at a ceremony held to mark World Press Freedom Day, which saw the introduction of the first Maldives Journalism Awards.

President Yameen was also criticised for not making an official statement. A statement was however issued by President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali, in which he warned that the government would stop any journalism outside of acceptable bounds, or attempts to create chaos or defame individuals.


While the press provided essential information to the public, Jameel meanwhile went on to say that the manner in which information was imparted at times misled the public and “becomes a poison that clouds the mind”.

If local media outlets aired such “poisonous” reports, Jameel warned that journalism could be reduced to frivolous entertainment.

“Journalism should not be something you do for your own entertainment or fun,” he said.

Meanwhile, addressing the people of Meedhoo in Raa atoll last week, Jameel asserted that wealthy media owners would not be able to dictate to the government or determine the course of the nation for the next five years.

“Today’s reality is that [the mass protest on December 23, 2011] that brought to an end to what was happening in this country was not at all the work of powerful businessmen or those who run influential newspapers,” he said.