20 May 2011 - The Government of Maldives welcomes the report on Maldives press freedom by the International Federation of Journalists, and reiterates the Government’s commitment to upholding the right to freedom of expression. Not only has the Government taken a number of legal steps, through both domestic law and through ratifying core international human rights conventions, to protect the right, but a cursory glance at the current press landscape reveals a wide array of media outlets and of views and opinions, including regular criticism of the Government. For as long as it is in Office, the current Government will never seek to control or to shackle people's freedom to speak their mind - a point recognized by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression after he visited the Maldives.
In this regard, the Government of Maldives welcomes the efforts by the newly established Maldives Media Council to bring a sense of professionalism and ethical guidelines to the media cadre, specifically noting the first step to introducing a code of ethics binding on all in the profession.
As a democracy in transition, there is a sense of flexing muscle between the independent institutions and other state parties, and unfortunately the lines are still waiting to be drawn, as in the case of the People’s Majlis’ General Committee investigation. The Government renews its call for journalists to practice their craft ethically and within accepted norms of code of conduct, and refrain from unfair portrayal of personalities, and to respect the privacy of all citizens.
Having inherited one of the worst economic situations the country has ever seen, the Government has been working with IMF to reduce its expenditures, and the Government’s decision to publish an Official Gazette was not to intimidate publications into closing, but rather an austerity measure.
Regarding the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation, unfortunately the current MBC Board was appointed at a time when the Opposition majority of the People’s Majlis was being used for obvious political reasons. However, the Government looks forward to the day when the MBC can function as an independent, impartial and objective State broadcaster, backed by an independent and well-respected Board.
The Maldives Government admires the work of the IFJ and requests that the organization only uphold the very principles they espouse when they report on the situation on the ground. In this regard, perhaps it would be useful for the IFJ to send a delegation to Male’ to meet with key individuals in Government to judge whether the local media is able to meet the needs of the public it serves and of freedom of expression in the Maldives.