MJA expresses concern over alleged media boycotts

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has expressed concern over boycotts of certain media outlets by state institutions, political parties and other entities.

In a press release issued yesterday, the MJA stated it had received multiple complaints from media personnel regarding the issue. One such complaint alleged that private broadcaster RaajjeTV had been given exclusive access to interviews with the MDP following former President Nasheed’s recent trip abroad.

The MJA also highlighted the President’s Office’s apparent refusal to cooperate with private broadcaster Raajje TV.  The organisation has claimed that these alleged media boycotts, which are perceived as being sympathetic to opposing political views, were becoming alarmingly common in the Maldives.

Speaking to Minivan News, MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said that although the boycott issue had been present from the time multi-party politics was established in the Maldives, the problem had become a growing concern of late.

“At a time when media itself is so polarized and prone to political rivalry, we are concerned that political actors are finding it harder to accept media reports which are not aligned with their own personal opinions. This leads state institutions or parties to allow access only to selected media, in effect denying other media the opportunity to fulfill their journalistic tasks,” he said.

Hiriga stressed that owing to a lack of resources, media outlets may not be able to attend every event they are invited to, adding that state institutions and political parties must however remain equally accessible to all media.

He emphasized the importance of not boycotting any media outlet based on their editorial policies or perceptions of political leaning, while at the same time noting the importance of the media’s objectivity in its reporting of news.

The MJA also stated that a boycott of any media institution would be neither encouraged nor accepted by the association.  The statement also called for political actors and the general public to lodge complaints with the relevant media authorities should they have complaints concerning standards of journalism.

In response to the MJA press statement, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor stated that the party held no such policies to boycott media outlets. He went on to say that the party’s events were open to all media and that he felt some outlets opted to not attend them intentionally.

President’s Office Spokesperson, Abbas Adil Riza, Media Secretary Masood Imad and the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Last month, state officials accused Raajje TV of acting irresponsibly with its reporting by spreading what it called “baseless” allegations about the conduct of officers and inciting violence.

Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed previously named RaajjeTV as ‘enemies of state’ in a press conference held on July24, the same day on which the Maldives Police Service released a press statement stating its refusal to cooperate with or provide protection to the same channel.

Meanwhile, Raajje TV last month continued to accuse police of targeting, assaulting and harrasing its reporters.

A statement from Raajje TV on July 10 read: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment have been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”


Handover of state broadcaster “best decision I’ve made”: President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan today said the handing of the state broadcaster to the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) was the “best decision I’ve made”.

Video footage on February 7 shows rogue police and military officers storming the state broadcaster’s compound prior to President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation, using a firearm or some kind of explosive to break down the gates.

Nasheed subsequently claimed he was forced to resign “under duress” in a coup d’état orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, and carried out by mutinous elements of the police and military.

Speaking at an event to mark World Press Freedom Day, Dr Waheed claimed the handing of the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) to the parliament-created Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) had ended executive control of the media.

Nasheed had refused to hand control of state broadcasting to MBC claiming the then-opposition controlled-Majlis had appointed their supporters to the MBC board in “a media coup.”

Dr Waheed also announced today that the government would resume commercial advertising in privately-owned newspapers, marking a return to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s policy of effectively subsidising private newspapers through government advertisements.

Advertising an “incentive” for newspapers

Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed ended the policy in 2008 and shifted government announcements to a free weekly in-house gazette, claiming the move saved Rf 32 million (US$2,077,922) annually.

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) had campaigned against Nasheed’s decision, claiming the move had bankrupted news outlets and led to the closure of several newspapers.

Speaking to the press at a function held to mark International Press Freedom Day, Waheed said, “I want to open up government advertisements instead of publishing them solely in the government gazette even today. I think that will help the newspapers”.

MJA President ‘Hiriga’ Ahmed Zahir also spoke at the function held at the President’s Office, and said government advertising had provided “an incentive” for newspapers.

“I am not calling for the gazette to be annulled. But I don’t believe announcements for jobs and tenders should come through this gazette,” he said.

Handover to MBC

Under Nasheed’s administration, the MBC and the MNBC were engaged in a long-running tug-of-war for the control of state broadcasting assets.

Video footage on February 7 shows rogue police and military firing an explosive device to open MNBC gates. MNBC staff told Minivan News the security forces cut off MNBC coverage and ordered the station to air private Villa TV station’s live feed.

Former MNBC Managing Director Ahmed Shareef told Minivan News that President Waheed’s younger brother Ali Waheed had ordered the handover of MNBC to him on the orders of then VP Waheed. After Shareef refused, Ali Waheed led the military takeover of the MNBC.

Shortly after President Waheed took office, he signed over state media to the MBC. He told reporters today that the “best decision I’ve made was handing over TV and Radio to MBC.”

“The executive does not own any TV or radio stations any longer. I think this is the first time in Maldivian history that the executive does not control radio, TV or newspapers. I met with the MBC board within my first week in office. Even among all the stress and turmoil, I ensured the handover of state radio and TV to MBC as stipulated by law,” Waheed said.

Waheed said the handover of state assets to MBC ensured independence for the media as the government no longer controlled the media. “Today, the executive does not want to try and make the government’s view to be the truth,” he said.

“I believe freedom of expression exists in the Maldives to its widest extent today,” Waheed added.

However, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused the MBC of “blatant propaganda”, alleging the station produced biased content and did not give adequate exposure to all political parties.

Meanwhile, MBC has announced a temporary halt to all political programming until the TV and radio stations better understood their public service role and could provide “intellectually debatable programs”.

Former President Nasheed held a parallel press freedom lunch for journalists and MPs at Traders Hotel.


Financial committee to recommend abolition of Media Council

Parliament’s financial committee announced its intention to abolish the Maldives Media Council (MMC) in a report that will be submitted to the house for debate as part of tomorrow’s scheduled agenda.

The report states that the decision has been reached owing to the Solicitor General’s belief that the MMC has not been able to perform its duties and responsibilities to a satisfactory level.

The 15 member MMC, established in 2010, is charged with preserving the freedom and integrity of media in the Maldives as well as encouraging ethical and professional standards within the industry.

The MMC was scheduled to hold elections for new council members on May 10.

President of the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir disagrees with the decision of the finance committee.

“First of all let’s look at the reason they have given for disbanding the media council. They are saying it must be disbanded because the council had not executed its responsibilities. But if it is not a justifiable reason. If the council members are not fulfilling their duties, then they must be removed from the position, new members must be appointed and the council must proceed,” he said.

“Disbanding the council just because the members are not working is like dissolving the parliament because members are not working – which is absurd,” said Hiriga.

Additionally, the financial committee will suggest to the house that the responsibilities of the MMC be transferred to the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) whose current remit covers only television and radio broadcasts.

Hiriga expressed concerns over this idea: “There are talks of assigning the task of print media regulation to the existing Broadcasting Commission. But we must remember that the commission’s composition and mandate is very much structured to regulate the broadcast or electronic media; not the print,” said Hiriga.

“If they are going to reassign the tasks, they must change the composition of the Broadcasting Commission to encourage representation of members more experienced in print media. Because the existing members are screened and selected for the position because of their expertise in electronic media,” Hiriga continued.

Additionally, the current President of the MMC Mohamed Nazeef, believes that the MBC cannot safeguard media freedoms adequately as it is a regulatory arm of the government.

“Parliament elected most of the members of the commission and so it will be hard for them to be independent from the government,” said Nazeef.

In accordance with the Maldives Media Council Act, the MMC operates as an independent legal entity.

Chairman of the finance committee Ahmed Nazim said that the establishment of the MBC has resulted in an overlap of the two bodies’ responsibilities. He said that he hoped to establish a single body “similar to Ofcom in the UK.”

Ofcom is the UK’s independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industry, created by an act of parliament in 2003. The legislation states that the group should protect the interests of citizens and consumers.

Nazim said that the necessary legislation to facilitate the adaptation of the MBC would be introduced by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and formed part of the financial committee’s report.

The financial committee’s report also highlights the findings of the Auditor General’s (AG) report from last year which claimed that council members had been illegally receiving a living allowance of Rf7500 (US$500) a month in addition to their salary.

Hiriga stated his agreement that certain aspects of the financial committee’s report held merit, but suggested that legal safeguards would be needed to protect the media.

“We have always maintained that media needs to be self regulated and it must be done under one body,” he said.

“We have no objection to dissolving the media council as such. But if it is being done, then mechanisms to regulate print media must be introduced, the Broadcasting Commission’s composition and legal mandate must be amended. Otherwise it will be an unfair decision.”


False allegations against government “a criminal offence”: President’s Office

Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair has contended that “spreading baseless and demonstrably false claims” about the government is a “criminal offence”, warning that the government would take measures against such claims.

Speaking at the press conference on Wednesday, Zuhair said that government has been tolerating the false allegations from the opposition targeting the government and President Mohamed Nasheed.

However, Zuhair claimed that it was “serious crime to spread baseless and demonstrably false claims”, adding that “we will not hesitate to take actions against anyone who commits the offence.”

Zuhair’s remarks came following the cases forwarded to the police by President Nasheed, requesting an investigation into claims by DQP council members ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Didi and Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed on DhiTV Sunday night, that the government was “plotting against religious scholars under Jewish guidance” and that it was “working under the influence of Christian priests.”

“Why is it that they have made an office for David Hardingham called ‘Honorary Cousel of the Maldives’?” Ahmed Didi asked appearing on DhiTV Sunday night. “What would a temple priest do? They are running an office for him on our state’s expense. Nasheed has been well hooked. He’s been caught good. He can’t back down.”

Nasheed has been “trying to spread irreligious practices and principles in this country” before he was elected and immediately thereafter, Didi alleged.

He claimed Nasheed has called prominent religious scholars such as Sheikh Ilyas Hussein, Adhaalath party scholars council president, “a terrorist”.

Senior government officials were meanwhile offered “large amounts of money” during foreign visits to introduce freedom of religion in the Maldives. Human Rights Ambassador Mohamed “Go Go” Latheef was made such an offer by “famous American Christians and Jews” but refused, Didi claimed.

However after Nasheed’s visit to England “he could not refuse any of their proposals because he was much too deep in it.”

Meanwhile, Zuhair today dismissed the opposition’s claims.

He insisted that accusing the government of being influenced by “foreign priests” is a serious lie, which has been repeated since Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) came to power in 2008.

Zuhair also condemned the recent press statement from former coalition partner and now minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), in which the party accused President Nasheed of spreading lies about the existence of extremists in Maldives.

Referring to the media outlets which reports the allegations, the Press Sercretary said that measures will be taken against anyone who “participates in the criminal offence” of spreading false claims.

According to Zuhair, reporting the demonstrably false allegations of foreign religious influence was a “violation of journalism ethics” and the press secretary urged media to refrain from reporting them.

Head of the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir meanwhile said opinions were subjective and it was not the responsibility of the journalist to authenticate claims made by opposition groups or the government.

“Threatening” the media was not conducive to freedom of expression, he said.


Broadcasting Commission, Journalist Association condemns MNDF “threats” to private media

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has condemned the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for asking private television stations not to broadcast any content from Friday’s ‘Defend Islam’ protest that could disrupt national security and “encourage the toppling of the lawfully-formed government.”

Privately-owned media outlets, DhiTV and Villa TV, broadcast live coverage of the eight-hour long protest organised by a coalition of NGOs and seven opposition parties.

In a statement yesterday, MJA contended that the letter sent to the television stations, signed by Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, amounted to “undue influence” and “threats” to free media, noting that regulating the media was the role of the Media Council and Broadcasting Commission.

MJA claimed that MNDF was politically pressured to send the letters, observing that the directive was sent before the protest had started.

“The announcement was very irresponsible and we call on MNDF to apologise,” MJA said in the statement.

The journalist association also strongly criticised state broadcaster Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) for “biased coverage” of Friday’s opposition and ruling party protests.

In addition to repeated runs of President Mohamed Nasheed’s speech at the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) rally in support of ‘moderate Islam,’ the state broadcaster also showed live telecast of an impromptu rally held at the MDP Haruge facility on Friday night.

“MNBC is run by state money and transmitting biased video footage and images is something that Maldives Broadcasting Commission should investigate,” the MJA said, reiterating its call for the government to transfer assets of MNBC to MBC, which was formed by an Act of parliament.

Broadcasting Commission Chair Badr Naseer meanwhile told local media that threats to the media from the military was “not something that we should see in a society maturing for democracy.”

MNDF Spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem told Minivan News that the army did not wish to comment on the MJA statement.

“That day we issued the statement because we found that it was necessary given the situation at that time,” he said.


Sun apologises for brothel articles, while police summon editor for questioning

Local radio station and online newspaper ”Sun” today apologised to the public, after the Maldives Media Council (MMC)’s head Mohamed Nazeef yesterday sent a letter addressed to Sun Editors Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir and Shinan Ali requesting they do so.

The apology followed the publication of a series of stories in which journalists wrote detailed and lurid accounts of their visit to an illegal massage parlour, and solicited sex from the women.

‘Sun’ issued a press release today stating that it believed the articles were “not written professionally” and that the news organisation assured that it would maintain professionalism in its future writings.

Ali told Minivan News he was “really proud” of the journalists involved and what they had reported.

“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.

In its press release, Sun said that the objective of the investigation into illegal prostitution conducted in the Maldives was to draw the attention of the concerned authorities and the public over the issue.

Sun also expressed concern that if no measures were taken, prostitution would become widespread as with the drugs that circulated in the Maldives in 1970s.

The MMC has forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General, and Zahir was today summoned to police headquarters for questioning.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said  Hiriga was questioned about the articles Sun published regarding illegal prostitution conducted inside some salons and massage centers in Male’.

”Others concerned persons were also summoned,” Shiyam said, declining to disclose further information.

The MMC has claimed that the context and phrasing of the articles published on Sun Online contained phrasing suggesting that the journalists may have engaged in ‘sinful’ activities, and were written in such a way as to encourage these activities.

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.

The articles are now ranked ‘most read’ on Sun Online’s website.


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.


Comment: Maldives Media at the Crossroads

Press freedom. Media Freedom. Right to Information.

Several years ago these were taboo words in the Maldives. Now they have become the mantra of the local media. Ironically it is coming from those people who resisted the introduction of these democratic instruments into Maldives.

The chant now is ‘self regulation’. And that coming especially from the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) is worrying.

The MJA has become the grand mufti of the nation’s media. They have become the sole experts to assess the media. But in a country like the Maldives where everyone is familiar with each other, the views of MJA are like that of a serial killer calling for human rights.

If MJA claims to be a voice for free media they are a bit late for this. Such freedoms have undoubtedly been established. The noble deed was done by some others who started the process almost twenty years ago. They risked their lives like those doing a massive clean-up while the storm was blowing. By now, they have stashed their tools and dumped the garbage and are busy with more clean-ups.

Rumor has it that MJA is synonymous to Haveeru – the oldest daily of over 30 years and supposedly with the largest audience. The President of MJA – Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir has been the editor of Haveeru for most of its life.

For me, MJA’s credibility has always been questionable; among many other contexts is its representation of local media. I asked the President of MJA for a list of its membership. But sadly, he ignored my request. That was from the very person who calls for freedom of information.

I logged onto the MJA website. The executive committee members were disclosed there. To my disappointment, they turn out to be the silent forces that resisted the movement to establish the very freedoms that the Maldivians enjoy today.

Now these forces are busy producing the media junk that Maldivians are exposed to, every time they turn a radio or a TV on.

I cannot say such trash is entirely due to the lack of professional training of the local journalists. In the current scenario, the security of your job as a journalist in private media depends on your willingness to attack the government. The editors discount the ethics of their profession when it comes to imposing their views on the general public and violate the average person’s right to information.

I have always had deep suspicions about those who change their tune overnight and take multiple forms. Haveeru was definitely not advocating freedom of expression and press freedom in 2007.

My experience with them dates back to March 20, 2007, when one of my articles was published in a local paper.

In relation to that, I remember Haveeru was way ahead of others in portraying me as an ignorant apostate of Islam. I saw no wrong on my part as I was merely expressing my opinion. However, Haveeru was quick to twist my opinion as the view point of my employer. Further, they spiced up their story with quotes of those who shared their views.

On May 3, 2007, on World Press Freedom Day, the police chased me on the road and finally carried me to the police station. At the station, on live TV, I saw the official functions to mark the day. Soon I was delivered to the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, to have the views I expressed in the article “corrected”. Still Haveeru never mentioned that I was exercising my right to expression.

The election of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) held on 28th March 2010 is a case in point for assessing the credibility of the MJA.

I ran for a seat in the MMC. I was one of the two women shortlisted along with 13 men competing for seven seats to represent the public there. Two other women competed with nine men to represent the registered media in the council. The voters consisted of 20 registered media outlets.

MMC was formed with a blatant gender gap – a consequence of MJA’s attempt to ensure that the MMC is their subsidiary branch. MJA’s preferences unfortunately represent my loss.

A press release from the MJA on 18th March 2010 reads:

“While there is no room for us to deem the procedure was not politically motivated, our Association has noticed that the announced candidates include former frontline members of political parties.”

Six months ago, I worked as a purely administrative, senior secretary of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). I am certainly proud that I contributed to the social and political reform of my country through my work there. Especially when MDP represents the leaders who brought us not only the freedom of expression but all the freedoms that Maldivians entertain today.

I found it surprising MJA failed to look beyond my one identity.

I have several identities. I was a school teacher who taught primary school kids, college kids, adults. I was a coordinator for UN funded projects on areas such as Population Education, Empowerment of Women, Reproductive health and Life skills. I have received government’s pension for 20 years of public service. I was a reporter and an editor for a local daily with an adequate level of professional training. I wrote many articles on social issues for the media including Haveeru and their English magazine ‘The Evening Weekly.’ I am a graduate of social science – one of the very few who ran in the MMC elections who had a university degree. Most importantly I am a mother of three grown up children.

Despite the dragging complaints by MJA on the MMC elections, they did not see anything wrong with Haveeru casting three votes as separate sources – Haveerudaily, Haveeru online (they have the same news stories and articles) and Haveeru FM (a music channel). Yet they failed to field a single female candidate from their establishment. MJA’s President and Editor of Haveeru, Ahmed Zahir, told me the MJA does not work for gender equality.

So far, MJA has been busy lambasting the government. But they have never taken a look inwards at how their media is performing. The aggressive promotion of gender stereotypes, gender discriminations and extremist viewpoints are probably not something they comprehend.

The MJA has undoubtedly achieved their main objective, which is attracting the attention of the international organisations. MJA knows that international organisations, to complete their tasks, depend heavily on local groups. This means that one can work for the benefit of the other. The building blocks for the MJA’s powerbase have started streaming in, in the form of training opportunities, local and international platforms and scholarships. MJA knows that the work plan of international organisations does not always include close scrutiny of people to whom they hand over funds.

The World Press Freedom Day was celebrated in Maldives last week. A two day consultation on Freedom of Information was held. The event was organised jointly by the Maldivian government and UNESCO. The local media personnel and representatives of the regional media participated at this workshop.

I watched the inauguration of the event live on TV. I also made some notes as distinguished people gave their speeches. One of them urged to deliver democracy with responsibility. Another pointed out that right to information is not the journalist’s right to information, but the right to information of the ordinary person on the street. The UNESCO Director General stressed the importance of quality of information and its dependence on the availability of accurate and up-to-date information for the journalists. The keynote speaker touched on a core value of the profession. He indicated that right to information is less satisfied by law than the desire, ability and choice of the journalist to choose the right information for the job.

The point leap of Maldives in the Press freedom Index was mentioned before the event was over. I did not find anyone there who helped bring that leap. No faces and no mention of names of those who over the past twenty years, at their own behest, struggled and made sacrifices to bring the media freedom we witness in the country today. Paradoxically, the hall was full of those locals who vehemently obstructed media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.

I ask myself why I wrote what I’ve written here. Is it worth? Or is it a waste of time?

At its worst, my readers will view me as a disgruntled person, taking it out personally on the MJA.

At its best, my readers will view my comments in a broader context.

As the Maldives transforms from a society of consensus – a condition forced by political repression – into a society of conflict, caused by the newly acquired freedoms, the role of media now, could never be more critical for the future of this nation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


MDP condemns DRP accusations that the party backed attacks on the media

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has refuted claims made by the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) last week accusing the ruling party of masterminding recent attacks on the media.

Four gang members stormed the studios of television station DhiTV last week, and hours later an employee of newspaper Haveeru was left in a critical condition after he was stabbed outside the building.

In an interview with DhiTV the following day, DRP vice president and spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef said he believed the MDP was behind the attacks on media, adding that he does “not believe the MDP is trying to bring press freedom to the country,.”

DRP vice president and MP Ahmed Ilham did not say he blamed the MDP for the attacks, but he critcised the government “for trying to kill the media in many [other] ways.”

The government had cut points from the broadcasting license of radio station DhiFM “to try and threaten them,” he said.

Police criticism of DhiFM for its coverage of a protest outside Muleaage in January led to the station having five points deducted. Together with police attempts at the time to stop the broadcast, the incident was treated as attack on press freedom by the station and the Maldives Journalists’ Association (MJA).

Three members of the MJA have meanwhile flown to Colombo with the intention of lobbying diplomats and journalists, “seeking international support for press freedom in the Maldives.”

MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said that “President Nasheed’s words promoting press freedom are not being matched by action. Our goal is to seek international pressure so that the President will act on his promises.”

Under the Maldives’ current broadcasting legislation, points are deducted for any breaches of the broadcasting code of conduct, up to a maximum of 100, as decided by a committee appointed by the Department of Information.

Spokesperson for MDP Ahmed Haleem said the party had “sacrificed much” to bring press freedom to the Maldives and regretted DRP’s accusations that the party was somehow responsible for the attacks on the media.

”They don’t know what to talk about now, so they are spreading these untrue stories,” Haleem said.

Haleem claimed that Ilham was “very new to politics” and ”really does not know the way things go.”