The government is all set to introduce a fast track system for the proposed defamation bill to “set the limits on freedom of expression” in order to protect people from committing the act of defamation.
In an apparent smart move, the government in mid-July made ruling MP Ahmed Nihan to withdraw his version of defamation bill- dubbed as “death knell” for media freedom by critics- to introduce a “media friendly” bill. The government is planning to push the bill through people’s Majlis in a day.
What Is A “Media Friendly” Bill
- The new “media friendly” bill has been proposed by the MP for Ungoofaaru constituency, Jaufaru Dhaaood on behalf of the government.
- The new bill proposes lower fines and jail sentences. The defamation will go to court as civil offence and if a person fails to pay the fine, he/she would face criminal charges.
- The fine has been reduced from MVR 5 million to MVR 2 million and if a person fails to pay the fine will land up in jail for six months as against jail term for one year mentioned in “not so friendly” bill introduced by Nihan.
- The bill has two parts; the media part which covers rumours circulated by media and the individual part which covers defamatory speeches at public platforms.
- The bill is on the floor of the parliament for debate and voting but PPM Parliamentary Committee has decided to push the bill in a day.
The Never Ending Tale Of Media Clampdown
Ex-Haveeru Employees Banned
The Civil Court recently ordered ban on ex-Haveeru employees for two years from working in any other organisation. Court ordered the Home Ministry to ensure that the ex-employees do not work for any other media house for two years stating that it was leding to massive loss to Haveeru- the oldest newspaper of the country.
What Really Happened?
- On March 31, the civil court ordered to halt the publication of country’s oldest newspaper agency Haveeru Online after shareholding dispute between two parties.
- This led to mass resignation of Haveeru’s employees and they started working for the new newspaper agency Mihaaru- owned by one of the stakeholders.
Reason For Ban
- Court ordered ban on ex-Haveeru journalists for two years from working in any other organisation stating huge financial losses due to mass resignation from Haveeru Daily.
- Court also found out that assets of Haveeru Daily were being used illegally by ex-Haveeru employees.
What About Others?
CNM Closed! Ahmed Rilwan Still Missing! Raajje TV Journalists Facing Trial!
CNM Expose That Led To Its Closure
- CNM was forced to shut down on political pressure after it exposed First Lady’s misuse of state funds for personal profit.
- CNM had exposed First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim for misusing the dates donated by Saudi Arabia for the personal gain through the NGO owned by her.
- CNM also exposed the letter sent to Finance Ministry by Islamic Minister to transfer half of the Abu Dhabi donation to Fathimath’s NGO, the Sadagat Foundation.
- The Editor-in-Chief , Ismail Rasheed called it a forced shut down by the influential government official. Howvever, one of the shareholders of CNM, Mohamed Ali Janah, dismissed the claim of political pressure.
Ahmed Rilwan Still Missing
- Close to two years now, but there is no sign of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan who was abducted in August 2014.
- Two suspects have been arrested but the main suspect Mohamed Suaid had fled from Maldives last year while the family of Rilwan accused police of delaying investigation leading to discrepancies.
- Government was summoned by the United Nations seeking response over his disappearance. Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon refuted allegations and said that there is no involvement of government in his abduction.
Raajje TV Journalists Facing Trial
- Two things common between Mohamed Wisam, Leevan Ali Naseer, Hussain Fiyaz Moosa and Adam Zareer, were first, they all are Raajje TV journalists and second, they all are facing “vague” charges for obstructing law and order on different occasions.
- State prosecutor claims they defied police orders and crossed a barricade set up near the central bank building in Malé during an anti-government protest on March 25 last year.
- While they pleaded not guilty by saying that they were doing their duty as journalists.
- Judge presiding over the trial questioned the legality of the charges against the Raajje TV CEO Moosa and why he was charged with inappropriately touching a person instead of more serious offence of assault
Journalism, A Crime In Maldives?
- 18 journalists were arrested during the sit-in protest against Court’s decision for shutting Haveeru.
- 183 Maldivian journalists signed a petition and submitted it to the President’s Office, the People’s Majlis and the Supreme Court requesting to drop the charges against 24 Journalists arrested since President Abdulla Yameen came in power.
- Maldives has been ranked 112th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 60 places since 2010.