Access to information is one of the key aspects of a healthy democracy. Allowing people to seek and receive public documents serve as a critical tool for enhancing transparency, accountability and service delivery.
Broadcast Commission's Chair Badur Naseer (R), Vice Chair Shaheeb (L)
The Constitution of the Maldives guarantees right to information held by offices, officials and by private bodies that carry out activities that affect the public in general.
Nevertheless, time and again various Government offices, public and private institutions and officials refuse or fail to facilitate journalists and media organizations access to information.
Regrettably, both the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) and the Maldives Media Council (MMC) have been so far silent on these issues. MBC also has a mandate to establish public service broadcasting, while MMC has a mandate to advocate and stand guard to protect the rights of free media and promote strong press.
MJA believes that with the lack of strong voice and active role by MBC and MMC may have only exacerbated an ongoing situation.
Number of media organizations have been repeatedly singled out and discriminated in receiving information. Some high-level public officials including Government ministers have been telling that they do not want to provide information to those Media Organizations who do not entertain or propagates as they wants. A recent statement by Minister of Finance Ahmed Inaz, shown repeatedly on Dhi-TV on 18th of June, also may suggest the attitude of these officials towards media.
Maldives Journalist Association urges MBC and MMC to become proactive in their responsibilities in promoting freedom of information, and help to change a culture of secrecy. MJA also urges these two regulatory bodies to hold accountable any official who refuse to share information and discriminate any media organization.
The InternationalFederation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the ruling by the Maldives Civil Court that the assets and budget of the state-owned Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) be handed over to the autonomous andindependent Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
This transfer is to be effected within twenty days, by which time journalists and other workers in the employ of the MNBC will become staff of the MBC. The Maldives Journalists’Association (MJA), an IFJ affiliate, has placed on record its belief that the empowerment of the autonomous corporation, which has been designated as apublic service broadcaster under Maldives’ national law, is key to raising awareness during a challenging time of transition for the Indian Ocean republic. The MBC was created by an act of parliament in April 2010, soon afterwards signed and passed into law byPresident Mohammad Nasheed. MBC was designated as a public service broadcaster to be overseen by a nine-member board appointed by parliament. All assets heldat that time by the MNBC, were to be handed over to the new body.
In July 2010, a top political advisor to President Nasheed indicated that the MNBC would continue to operate without any abridgment of either its mandate or its assets base. As he was quoted as saying: “Although the MBC has been established, the MNBC will continue operating the state broadcasters”.
TV Maldives (TVM) and the Voice ofthe Maldives (VOM), the presidential advisor insisted, would continue to remain assets of the MNBC. They have since been rebranded as MNBC One and Raajje Radio respectively.
“We hope that the stalemate over the disposition of broadcasting assets in the Maldives will be resolved with the Civil Court having given its ruling,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“The IFJ has consistently argued the case for public service journalism which is independent of state control and insulated from a dependence on advertising revenue which is known to often impair editorial independence.
“The initiative to set up theMBC as a public service broadcaster is one that we have watched with great interest, and we hope that with the recent judicial ruling the MBC will be ableto begin functioning in a manner that is true to its mandate.”