Male’, Maldives – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid, participated in the First Ministerial Meeting of the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC).
The Second Global Conference on Media Freedom meeting was held virtually, with the theme “Media Freedom in the Time of COVID-19″, and co-hosted by Canada and the Republic of Botswana.
Speaking at the meeting, Minister Shahid said that a free and independent media is one of the cornerstones of a democratic and just society, that it gives a voice to the most disadvantaged and contributes to human progression.
Minister Shahid mentioned the Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act, a decree passed by the Former President Yameen’s Administration, which he described as “a dark chapter in our history where journalists had to report in an environment surrounded by fear”
He added that the act used by the former government to harass independent media outlets and impose fines on such media.
Minister Shahid noted that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in 2018 ratified a bill to repeal the aforementioned Act, which has allowed much more freedom to Maldivian journalists. Minister Shahid added that this was his last decree he proposed before retiring from Parliament.
Minister Shahid also elaborated on the efforts undertaken by the current administration to safeguard the independence of journalists. In particular, he highlighted the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Deaths and Disappearances, which is currently investigating high profile cases of the abduction murder of Maldivian journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla and the murder of local blogger Yameen Rasheed.
Minister Shahid also mentioned the recent reconstitution of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission which mandated to advise media outlets on responsible journalism rather than arbitrary penalties.
Minister Shahid further expressed concern over the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on media freedom. He called on the international community to redouble their efforts to protect journalists worldwide and to ensure their work continues without fear and reprisal. Minister Shahid also condemned the atrocities committed against journalists causing them to lose their lives and livelihoods.
“freedom of expression is a right, not a previlige”Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid, Speaking at the First Ministerial Meeting of the Media Freedom Coalition
Minister Shahid concluded his speech reiterating the following words of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the event commemorating the diamond jubilee of Maldivian journalism “To ensure the rights of the people, it is better to have a free press without a Government than to have a Government without a free press.”
The Media Freedom Coalition was formed in July 2019 at the Global Conference for Media Freedom and is a partnership of 38 countries working together to advocate for media freedom and safety of journalists and hold to account those who harm journalists for doing their job.
Maldives became a member of the Media Freedom Coalition on 11 July 2019 and is a member of the Coalition’s Executive Group, along with the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Latvia, Germany, Ghana and the Netherlands.