The office of former President Mohamed Nasheed has strongly condemned the false attribution of a quote by Sun Online and Vaguthu from an article published this week in the Irish Times.
In a story published on Monday (August 18) under the headline, “Government’s image tarnished after reintroduction of death penalty: President Nasheed,” Sun Online reported Nasheed as saying that the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was attempting to enforce Islamic Shariah and that the government’s image has been tarnished in the international arena as a result of reintroducing the death penalty.
Online outlet Vaguthu meanwhile published a story under the headline, “PPM working to establish Islamic Shariah – Nasheed.”
The former president’s office, however, noted in a press statement yesterday that both Sun Online and Vaguthu falsely attributed a section of the Irish Times article as a direct quote from Nasheed.
‘You can’t have democracy without a country. Since the election, the government has been excoriated internationally for reintroducing the death penalty; under the law children as young as seven could potentially be sentenced. The PPM is moving towards sharia law,’ Sun Online and Vaguthu quoted the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) acting president as saying.
“However, President Nasheed said no such thing in his interview to the Irish Times,” the former president’s office said, explaining that Nasheed’s direct quote was “You can’t have democracy without a country,” while what followed was written by the author of the article, Mary Boland.
Sun Online has since amended its article and removed the quotation marks. The new version states that the Irish Times article was “based entirely” on Nasheed’s interview.
Sun also noted that Nasheed listed sea-level rise and Islamic extremism as the biggest threats facing the Maldives, warning that a “reversal of democracy is under way and dictatorship once again looms”.
Both during last year’s presidential election and his three years in office, rival parties and religious groups accused Nasheed of being anti-Islamic, promoting secularism, and pursuing liberal policies. The MDP presidential candidate had denied the allegations and assured that “other religions” would not be introduced under his administration.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Sun Online Editor Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir conceded that there was “a problem with the presentation in the part where there was a direct quotation.”
“But the news [on Irish Times] was written based on an interview Nasheed gave to the paper more than the paper’s editorial opinion, when you look at the whole context of it,” he said.
The correction or removal of the direct quotation was made “within a very short period” after publication, Hiriga said, adding that formally issuing a correction or retraction was not warranted as it was not “a problem with our information”.
“I also do not believe that presenting it as direct quotes from President Nasheed is the best practice. So we have made the change.”
The statement from the former president’s office meanwhile condemned “in the strongest terms” the dissemination of “false information” from the news outlets.
The statement called on journalists and editors to be more mindful of publishing incorrect or “misleading” information and appealed for impartial and unbiased reporting.
The statement urged reporters to take more care in translating from other languages into Dhivehi.
The former president’s office also called on the state’s media oversight or watchdog bodies to “investigate such matters and take measures fairly and without discrimination” and for all involved to work together to “strengthen the media sector to ensure such incidents that hinder independent journalism do not recur.”