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RSF calls on Maldives to stop dismantling critical media

Wednesday 6 July 2016, by SIGNIS

Paris, June 6th, 2016 (RSF). “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by mounting government hostility towards critical and independent news media in Maldives, where the editor of a news website has just revealed that it was forced to close by government pressure, and calls on the Commonwealth to react without delay.”

The popular website Channel News Maldives (CNM) closed for economic reasons. But the editor of the website, Ismail Rasheed, denies this explanation in a statement: “At first, attempts were made to take over the company and transfer it into a pro-government new website. When this did not become successful, pressure was mounted to completely close down the company,” Rasheed said.

“The close of Channel News Maldives is very bad news for pluralism and democracy in Maldives,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“The disappearance of one of the last media outlets still daring to criticize the government will inevitably be accompanied by an increase in self-censorship by the few remaining independent media still operating. The pressure from the government must stop, and the Commonwealth must react urgently so that Maldives does not end up with a political system that only has room for pro-government views.”

Pressure on the media has been mounting for months. On 12 April, the supreme court upheld an August 2015 high court decision splitting the ownership of Haveeru, the country’s oldest independent daily – a decision that forced the newspaper to stop producing a print issue and finally to close its website.

RSF adds that “in a parallel development, 16 journalists were arrested on 3 April while staging a demonstration in Malé in protest against the decline in government respect for media freedom.”

Maldives is now ranked 112th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 60 places since 2010.

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