Maldives: Parliamentary committee intervenes in media council case

A Maldives Parliament standing committee on independent institutions has presented its own complaint to the Maldives Media Council (MMC), a body it is tasked to hold accountable. The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) express concern at the intervention by the government committee to the council, which represents a “clear conflict of interest” in its role and responsibility.

Maldives Media Council meets with parliamentary committee. Credit: Twitter @mmc_mv

The complaint by the committee followed a letter sent to the government by the Indian High Commission in the Maldives on June 24, which raised concerns about media reporting and social media posts about its diplomatic staff by news website Dhiyares.

MJA is concerned that the parliamentary committee, which has the power to summon and question members of the Maldives Media Council and hold them accountable, became directly involved as a complainant in an investigation overseen by the MMC.

The MMC was confronted with the issue on July 5 when it was appearing before the committee on a different issue. At that time it was questioned about the Dhiyares complaint by lawmakers.

“Practices like this will introduce political influences to the work of the MMC, which is legally required to investigate ethics violations impartially,” the MJA said in a statement on July 6.

The MJA, journalists and media activists have reminded authorities to ensure full and unconditional respect for press freedom and other journalistic rights in the Maldives. The MJA also reinforced the critical need for journalists, editors and media outlets to ensure they uphold journalistic ethics and commit to responsible journalism.

The MMC was established in 2010 after an election held among registered print and broadcast media organisation in the Maldives. The council works to maintain press freedom in the Maldives and to investigate and take appropriate actions against acts that contravene the code of conduct that all media personnel must follow.

MJA president, Mohamed Hamdhoon, said: “The MJA calls on all authorities to ensure that media regulatory bodies have the freedom to act impartially without bias in upholding the value of press freedom as prescribed by Maldivian law and MMC’s mandate.”

The IFJ said: “An independent media council must be allowed to be just that – independent. It is inappropriate and a violation of media rights for an adjudicator on the council’s impartiality be able to interfere and pursue its own cases. We remind the parliamentary committee of this responsibility and for it to refrain from such actions. The government must allow complaints against media reporting to come through appropriate channels and by direct complainants so as to allow the MMC to fulfil its role without the potential for political influence or pressure.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram