|MJA sent a letter to President|
|Thursday, 27 December 2012|
Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has sent a letter to President highligthing the reservations in Freedom of Assembly Bill passed by the Majlis.
Below is the letter;
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik,
It is my opinion that the Bill on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, which was passed by the parliament yesterday, contravenes the Media Council Act and Broadcasting Commission Act, and I would like to direct your attention to this worrying fact.
Maldives Media Council has the authority to regulate the local media, while the Broadcasting Commission Act grants the Broadcasting Commission similar authority concerning broadcast media outlets.
However, the Bill on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly attempts to strip the powers vested in the Maldives Media Council by granting sole authority to regulate and accredit all media outlets to the Broadcasting Commission. I strongly oppose of this radical change.
I believe accrediting media would restrict media freedom. Major democracies of the world take this stance as well; especially regarding granting of complete legal authority to an institution like Broadcasting Commission - which does not have a mechanism of self-regulation. This is move that would raise serious issues like creating a highly polarized environment that encourages biased journalism.
To comply with government wishes, the best strategy to accredit journalists would be by giving the authority to the Media Council, which represents media in the country in its entirety.
We are also concerned with the article stipulating a one-minute delay in broadcasting. The bill also fails to acknowledge circumstances where journalists could report from the midst of a protest, assembly or gathering, thus making them vulnerable to police crackdowns and suffer brutal and excessive force by the police.
Looking back at the history of Broadcasting Commission, the previous regime exempted legitimate status of the board of public service broadcaster endorsed by the parliament under Broadcasting Act. Though the first two years passed without receiving legal status, Broadcasting Commission failed to address the issue. Only a few days ago, DhiTV editor Midhath Adam was summoned by the General Purpose Committee of the parliament, but the broadcasting commission opted to remain silent.
So I would like to express my deep concern, and would like to stress on the importance of your reconsideration of this bill before ratification.