Implement Media Council Law despite loopholes - MJA The Maldives Journalist Association urged President Mohamed Nasheed to implement the long delayed Media Council Law despite its loopholes – a bill passed in 2008 in parliament.
The Association said implementing the law even with its loopholes is a “lesser evil” than not having it at all.
The law gives the Media Council statutory powers to investigate public complaints against broadcast and print media. Yet that will also do away with the Department of Information regulating the editorial content in the private media.
“While the Media Council Law had many loopholes, it was still the lesser evil, and therefore the best choice for now, as the law will help bring an end to the Department of Information’s regulating and meddling in media content of private media organizations,” the Association said in a statement.
The Maldives Media Council Bill was passed in Parliament on October 27, 2008 and was ratified by the ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on November 4, 2008 -- just days before he left presidency after losing the country’s first multi party election.
The MJA has repeatedly called for its speedy implementation and its latest request came at a recent meeting the association had with the National Planning Council (NPC).
The MJA told the NPC that the delay in implementing the law is “stifling free expression and allowing a government authority to regulate media content.”
However, the Association is concerned over certain clauses in the law that will restrict “breathing space to the private independent media of Maldives.”
The law states that the council will compromise of 15 members -- 8 elected by media organizations and 7 members from public.
However, the Department will nominate the 14 names from the public of whom 7 will be elected thereafter.
And the MJA believes that the Department can still control the media, through the public composition of the Council apart from the fact that the state-owned TVM and VOM journalists too can be elected among the 8 members.
When contact the President of Maldives Journalist Association Ahmed Zahir told the Asian Tribune that he believes “media should be allowed to be regulated by the media itself.”
“There should be self-regulation in the media,” he said adding that statutory powers vested in the Council will undermine press freedom in the Maldives.
Meanwhile, Article 19, a media watchdog, too has voiced concerns over certain clauses in the law.
Calling it is a “good law” aimed at safeguarding the media, the Article 19 however has then recommended nominations of the public members to the Council to be made by someone other than the Minister since it is a highly political post.
“For example, the university could nominate one person, the bar association another and so on,” it has said.
At the same time, a number of other important matters -- such as protection of children, advertising, etc. -- are not dealt with in the law.
It also pointed out that “the grounds for complaint are not defined, i.e. anyone may complain about anything, although the Council may reject groundless complaints” as another loophole.
However, President Mohamed Nasheed has responded to the MJA saying the law will be implemented soon.