Politicians, gangs and religious extremists threaten media freedom

Maldivian journalists have reported threats from political parties, gangs, religious extremists, parliamentarians and the government.

A landmark “Threat Analysis Report” by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) found that 84 percent of journalists surveyed reported being threatened at least once, while five percent reported being threatened on a daily basis.

Journalists identified political parties to be the top source of threat. Gangs, religious extremists and parliament placed second while the government was rated third.

The MBC also unveiled a “Broadcast Content and Complaints During Presidential Election 2013” on Wednesday which found former President Mohamed Nasheed received the most negative coverage of any of the presidential candidates across all stations except opposition aligned broadcaster Raajje TV.


The Threat Analysis Report is aimed at identifying threats to journalism and media freedom in the Maldives between 2011 and 2013.

Of the journalists surveyed, 29 percent said they felt the threats were serious and could threaten their lives while 27 percent said they were hesitant to report due to threats.

Over 30 percent said they were reluctant to report on gang activity.

Threats came in various forms, with 20 percent delivered in person, 18 percent via social media and 15 percent through telephone calls. Journalists also reported being stalked and family members being intimidated.

However, a significant percentage of the journalists threatened (43 percent) did not report threats to the authorities.

Television stations meanwhile reported being vandalized. These include an arson attack that destroyed Raajje TV offices in October 2013 and an attack on Villa TV in March 2012. TV stations have reported these cases, but said they are not happy with police progress in investigating cases.

The TV stations have expressed concern that gangs and religious extremists may step up the scale and seriousness of attacks in the future.

Broadcast media told the MBC that media threats are caused due to attempts by political forces to control the media and failure by journalists to practice ethical journalism in a turbulent political environment.

Police refusal to support and cooperate with media outlets as well as lack of tolerance for different views were also identified as underlying reasons for threats against the press.

Access to information

All TV stations and 72 percent of journalists reported difficulties in obtaining information from the government and other state institutions.

Access to information is rated as the second biggest obstacle to free media in the Maldives. The top obstacle is political influence while discrimination in providing information is rated third.

The management of TV stations said stations are self-sustainable and said they do not believe their content is influenced by financiers.

However, they told the MBC that journalists do not practice fair, responsible and ethical journalism in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, 54 percent of journalists said their stations allowed practice of free, fair, responsible and ethical journalism. But 69 percent acknowledged presence of “activist journalists” in the Maldivian media.

Only four percent of journalists said there was no editorial independence at the stations they worked at.

Presidential election content

The MBC monitored prime time content of nine television stations before the first round of presidential elections – between August 7 and September 6, 2013 – to compile the report on Broadcast Content and Complaints During Presidential Election 2013.

According to the report President Nasheed received the least (8.69 percent) coverage on public broadcasting channel Television Maldives (TVM). Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim (18 percent) gained the most coverage on TVM  followed by current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom (16 percent).

Each of the commercial channels monitored gave a significantly large percentage of positive coverage for a single presidential candidate.

The only exception to this was Jazeera channel which divided coverage more equally compared to other channels but favored Nasheed by approximately five percent, the MBC said.

The rest of the channels were divided among the candidates as follows; former President Dr. Mohamed Waheed dominated DhiTV, DhiFM and Channel One, Gasim dominated Villa TV (VTV) which he owns, President Yameen dominated Channel 13 and SunTV Plus, while President Nasheed dominated RaajjeTV.


Media Council slams Defense Ministry over threats to media

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has expressed concern over the Ministry of Defense’s threatening the media for criticizing the dismissal of nine soldiers.

In a statement on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense threatened to take action against any party who criticized the ministry’s “routine” disciplinary actions.

The MMC – an elected 15 member council with media and public representatives – said the ministry’s statement infringes on freedom of the press and stressed that the freedom of press cannot be limited any more than is stated in the constitution.

The council appealed to the Defense Ministry to forward media complaints to the council instead of taking direct action against media outlets and reminded the Defense Ministry that the MMC is the legally authorized body to discipline any media.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has also criticized the “politically motivated and unjust” dismissal of nine high-ranking officers at the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF).

The nine were dismissed on charges of sowing discord within the military during the political tension surrounding the annulment, cancellation and delay of several round of presidential polls.

At the time, 17 high ranking officers signed a letter expressing concern over delay of polls and the repercussions in the absence of a president elect by the end of the presidential term on November 11.

Shortly afterwards, 73 mid ranking officers circulated an appeal calling on fellow soldiers not to obey “unlawful” orders issued by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan or his political appointees following the expiry of the presidential term.

The MMC has recently expressed concern with the Supreme Court asking the police to investigate a report aired by opposition aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV.

The police on Sunday sent case documents to the Prosecutor General’s office and requested charges be filed.

The military deployed soldiers to protect media outlets in October after masked men torched Raajje TV’s headquarters. The fire completely destroyed the station’s offices.