5th October, 2018
The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has rejected the rankings of The World Press Freedom Index of the media of the country by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The statement was given by Broadcom’s president Mohamed Shaheeb at a press conference held on Thursday. Shaheeb noted that the Press Freedom Index is established 'without any input from the Commission.' The Maldives has fallen three places in the Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index this year, after the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed and further restrictions on the media. The country now ranks 120 out of 180 countries.
According to Shaheeb, the commission rejected the ranking because of RSF’s failure to obtain clarification from them, despite the commission being the parent body of all broadcasting stations of the country.
RSF also noted that the 2016 anti-defamation law was being used to intimidate and force to shut down of media outlets. According to this law, media outlets can be fined between MVR50,000 and MVR500,000 for a first offence and up to MVR2 million after the third offence.
Private broadcaster Raajje TV had been fined on four different occasions and had paid a total of MVR 3.7 million. Two other opposition-aligned stations Sangu TV and VTV were fined MVR100,000 and MVR400,000 in March this year.
Shaheeb, at Thursday’s press conference, also admitted that they have not been fair in their investigations into defamation complaints.
Reporters Without Borders emphasized that ‘this poisonous climate reinforces self-censorship.’ Journalists say they are now forced to practice self-censorship to avoid lawsuits or criminal prosecution.
Prior to the country’s first multi-party democratic election in 2008, the Maldives was ranked 104 – an improvement on its 2007 ranking of 129.
The country showed a dramatic improvement in press freedom for the first time in 2009 and 2010– including decriminalization of defamation under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration – rising to 51 and then 52 on the index.
The highest ranking that the Maldives reached on the World Press Freedom Index was 73 in 2011. However, the nation’s ranking has been on the fall ever since. The Maldives’ rankings on World Press Freedom Index over the past six years:
2013 – 103, 2014 – 108, 2015 – 112, 2016 – 112, 2017 – 117, 2018 – 120
The Maldives is now ranked between Nigeria and Angola on the 2018 index.
The highest ranked countries on the World Press Freedom Index this year are Norway, Sweden and Netherlands followed by Finland and Switzerland. North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan were ranked as the worst performers.
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INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION AND FREEDOM OF JOURNALISTS