The first Maldives Journalism Awards took place in Dharubaaruge, Malé last night (May 3). The ceremony presented “Journalist of the Year” awards to journalists working in print and radio in the Maldives.
Fazeena Ahmed, 26, of Haveeru won in the online print category, and Ahmed Naushad, Voice of Maldives, won in the radio journalism category.
Haveeru journalist Ahmed Hamdhoon censured President Abdulla Yameen’s failure to attend the ceremony, saying: “[We] feel we, journalists are not important to the government.”
The event, organized by the Maldives Media Council, selected winners based on discipline, richness of content, adherence to proper journalistic practices, quality of presentation and inclusion of photos and videos.
Winners of the Maldives Journalism Award were selected by an independent panel of judges consisting of Maldives Broadcasting Commission Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik, former Minister of State for Information Thoyyib Mohamed, former Aafathis editors Abdulla Naeem Ibrahim, Mohamed Nazeef and Ahmed Zahir
There was an additional TV journalism category for which seven journalists applied. However, the judges said that none were selected due to lack of material.
Winner of the online journalism category Fazeena has been working at Haveeru for the past five years, and won recognition for her profile of former President Mohamed Nasheed during the presidential election of 2013, and her coverage of the Villingili children’s orphanage.
“I am very happy. Not just because I won the award, but because the Media Council has introduced such an award for the first time. This is a very important step and an encouragement for new journalists,” Fazeena told Minivan News.
She went on to identify access to information as the biggest obstacle to media freedom, and said that she had received threats because of her work.
No government officials present
In an op-ed today, Haveeru journalist Ahmed Hamdhoon expressed disappointment over President Abdulla Yameen and his ministers’ failure to attend the ceremony.
“All those working in the media are deeply saddened by President Yameen’s refusal to attend a landmark ceremony held by an independent state institution’s to recognize and encourage journalists,” wrote Hamdhoon.
Hamdhoon also criticized President Abdulla Yameen’s failure to make a statement on the World Press Freedom Day (May 3).
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has said Yameen was unable to attend the ceremony because the invitation –which was delivered a week ahead of the event – came “at the last minute.”
In a statement, Muaz said the government will treat all journalists equally, and pledged to do all possible to protect media in the Maldives. He went to say that the government will enact the Right to Information Act within the period specified in the act.
The government welcomes responsible journalism, and will stop any journalism outside of acceptable borders, or attempts to create chaos or defame individuals, he added.
He recognized threats media has faced over the past two years, including the vandalism at Villa TV, the Raajje TV arson attack, and the murder attempt on Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed.
Speaking at the event last night, MMC member Mohamed Abdulla Shafeeq identified threats to journalists as a growing problem.
“Threats from public to media outlets are increasing. There have been no efforts to stop this. This is something that all journalists agree,” he said.
A landmark “Threat Analysis Report” carried out by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission last week 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 were rated third.