Transparency Maldives condemns the recent spate of reprisals against journalists and media outlets by the State, particularly the arrest of a group journalists from 6 different media outlets on 3 April 2016. The journalists were protesting against recent developments that further stifled media freedom in the country.

Despite repeated concerns raised by international actors, local and international civil society, journalists and political parties, media conditions continue to deteriorate with numerous incidents of harassment and violence against journalists reported, compounded with a host of legal restrictions placed on press freedom. This includes the move to criminalise defamation, a recent court order to halt the publication of Haveeru News – longest running newspaper in the country – and the arrest of 16 journalists who were calling for press freedom.

We appeal to the Government of Maldives to uphold its State obligation towards freedom of speech and association (ICCPR and its First Optional Protocol (acceded to in 2006), and immediately withdraw the Defamation Bill from the Parliament and open up space for press freedom in the Maldives as enshrined in Article 28 of the Maldivian Constitution.

ENDS

View/download the press release in English


Transparency Maldives (TM) calls on parliamentarians, political parties, civil society actors including media, and citizens to stand up to protect civil and political liberties guaranteed under Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

TM is deeply concerned by the recent bill submitted by the ruling party to criminalise defamation and expressions contrary to national interest or tenets of Islam. The bill criminalises defamatory comments, anti-Islamic rhetoric and comments threatening national security. Anyone convicted under the law faces an initial punishment of a fine ranging from MVR 50,000 (USD 3, 262/-) to MVR 5 million (USD 324,000/-). Should a convict fail to pay the fine, he/she would be sentenced to a year in prison.

The criminal defamation bill is yet another attempt to stifle freedom of expression and dissenting voice in the Maldives. The law would be an addition to the list of anti-democratic laws and regulations passed over the past year to repress criticism and mark a dramatic deterioration on an already poor human rights record.

We also note with concern that this proposed law comes at a time when a massive grand corruption case amounting to MVR 1.22 billion is being investigated with widespread allegations of involvement of high-level public officials. Restrictions on freedom of expression also infringes on freedom of information and freedom of speech, making exposing corruption and holding corrupt officials to account impossible when individuals, particularly civil society actors and journalists, can be prosecuted for dissent.

We call on the parliament, judiciary, the executive and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives to deliver on their constitutional duty to protect civil and political liberties of Maldivians and to facilitate an environment where citizens can hold those that govern them accountable without fear of persecution.

ENDS

View/download the press release in English

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Transparency Maldives, jointly with Youth Integrity Network, Dhi Youth Movement, Maldivian Democracy Network, Maldives Ports Workers Union, Teachers Association of Maldives, Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, and Maldives Association for Physical Disables issued a press statement regarding the International Workers Day rally.

The International Workers Day rally will begin as scheduled at 4 pm from Male’ Social Centre on May 1, 2016. The rally is organised by 8 local NGOs and the Male’ City Council, Women’s Development Committee.

View/download the press statement in Dhivehi


As we mark International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December 2015, Transparency Maldives calls on the government to make strong commitments to fight corruption and to ensure political integrity in the Maldives.

Corruption is the biggest problem facing the Maldives today. The results of the 2015 Maldives Democracy Survey shows that 72% of the public believes that corruption has increased in the past year. Corruption continues to undermine development by promoting wastage, has eroded public confidence in key institutions and victimise vulnerable communities in Maldivian society.

With public confidence in the parliament, judiciary, executive and oversight bodies at an all time low, it is paramount that basic anti-corruption measures are obliged and enforced in order to restore public confidence in state institutions.

Transparency Maldives calls on the State to ensure the following.

1- As a measure to tackle illicit enrichment, enforce a credible asset declaration regime, with high-ranking officials in the executive, judiciary and legislature having to publicly declare their assets.

2- Create a safe environment for dissent to ensure that watchdogs, independent state institutions, opposition political parties, media and NGOs have the space to operate free from fear of persecution. In a healthy democracy these groups hold the state in check. In addition, citizens need to enjoy basic civil and political liberties to hold those that govern them accountable.

3- Corruption in the judiciary creates a cycle of crime, undermines access to justice and deprives victims of their right to a fair trial. The judicial sector of the Maldives need to undertake extraordinary measures to restore public confidence by adhering to international best practice and enforcement of anti-corruption measures.

4- The parliament of the Maldives is perceived as the most corrupt institution in the country according to the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer Survey. Allegations of vote buying within the parliament and illicit enrichment of MPs is widespread. Furthermore, there is limited public consultation in the law making process with the parliament increasingly becoming a vehicle to fast-track questionable laws and removal of public officials without due process.

We call on the parliament to work in the interest of the public by holding state institutions accountable and ensure greater transparency and inclusivity in the law making process. We call on relevant state institutions including the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Auditor General’s Office and the Prosecutor General’s Office to address the widespread allegations of corruption in the parliament.

Extraordinary measures need to be undertaken to tackle the scale of grand corruption in the Maldives. The level of impunity enjoyed by the powerful and the corrupt  in the Maldives, allows them to escape justice, undermines the rule of law and obstructs development. To win the fight against corruption, we need to create a culture of integrity and zero tolerance towards corruption.

ENDS.

View/download the statement in English.

Transparency International and its chapter Transparency Maldives express their deep concern for the worrying developments in the Maldives in the run up to and following the 30-day state of emergency declared by the Government of Maldives on 4 November 2015.

Over the past year the human rights situation in the country has been deteriorating with new laws, regulations and practices which continue to severely undermine civil and political liberties of the citizens of the Maldives.

The state of emergency and the consequent restrictions on constitutionally protected rights is deeply concerning as it is not only unprecedented, but is also declared ahead of a mass anti-government protest planned for 6 November.

Whilst the Foreign Minister, Dunya Maumoon declared that the emergency decree is a ‘pre-emptive and precautionary action in light of several security threats’ and that ‘the Maldives is safe for international visitors’, it is highly questionable how the current situation is legal and can be used to justify curtailing fundamental freedoms and liberties of an entire citizenry.
We also note that the state of emergency is declared ahead of the no confidence motion against Vice President, Ahmed Adeeb, accused of plotting the assassination attempt of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. The emergency decree reduces the period provided under Article 100 of the Maldives Constitution for the vice president to respond to the impeachment charges from 14 days to 7 days, indicating the arbitrary and politically motivated nature of this decision.
Worryingly, this emergency decree allows further attack on dissent in the Maldives and severely limits civic space. We also note that these restrictions come on top of recent legislative changes that severely restricts free speech and civic space under the newly enacted Anti-Terrorism Act (28 October) and NGO regulation (1 October).  The Anti-Terror Act and the new NGO regulation allows the government to exert complete control over civic groups and eliminate dissent.

Media in the Maldives continue to operate in an environment of fear and intimidation. On 3 October, three journalists from Raaje TV station were reportedly assaulted by the police. We urge the Maldives Police Service and other relevant authorities to conduct a credible, independent investigation into the incident to ascertain if any wrongdoing took place.

Serious allegations of corruption against top officials of the state including security forces and public companies have surfaced in the midst of the crisis that unfolded following the explosion on the Presidential speedboat. We call upon the concerned authorities to conduct a speedy and thorough investigation into these allegations, so that confidence in the security forces and public institutions could be restored.

We urge independent oversight mechanisms of the state to remain vigilant and monitor the situation carefully in order to ensure that no individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms are unduly restricted or violated and to ensure that the emergency decree does not become a cloak to provide impunity for rights abuse.

We call on the Parliament, in their review of the State of Emergency, to ascertain that the government authorities have provided sufficient and justifiable cause to declare a 30-day state of emergency with severe limitations on freedoms.

We also note that principles of fair trial should be maintained at all times and due process is owed to all individuals regardless of political post, belief or affiliation.

ENDS

For media queries, please call press contact(s):

Berlin
Chris Sanders
T: +49 30 343820 666

E: press@transparency.org

Malé
Thoriq Hamid
Transparency Maldives
T: +960 330 4017
M: +960 7999268

E: thoriq.hamid@transparencymaldives.org

View/download the press statement https://goo.gl/M0GT3I


A nationwide survey published by Transparency Maldives points to a continuing crisis of public confidence in key state institutions. Citizens are cynical about politics. They are also dissatisfied with the prevailing political and social order. The survey report, titled, A Troubled Future for Democracy, however, shows that a majority of Maldivians support democracy.

“The survey shows that citizens are less likely to meaningfully participate in public matters and protect democratic institutions as they have no faith in them.  If so, it should not be surprising to see democratic declines and increase in impunity and corruption,” Mariyam Shiuna, Executive Director of Transparency Maldives said.

Crisis of confidence in key institutions

Most citizens lack confidence in key state institutions including the parliament and the courts.  Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents say they have no confidence at all in the parliament. This is, however, an improvement of five percentage points compared to 2013.

Courts saw a drop of confidence level by five percentage points, compared to 2013. Over a majority (51%) of Maldivians now say they have no confidence at all in courts compared to 46% in 2013.

Strikingly, there was a major decrease of confidence level in the Elections Commission, with a drop of 17 percentage points compared to 2013. A majority (56%) still have confidence in the the Elections Commission.

Political parties saw an improvement of nine percentage points, although almost half (49%) still have no confidence at all in them.

The report argued that if public lack confidence in institutions, citizens are unlikely to defend those institutions and institutions are unlikely to be effective links between citizens and the state.

Cynical, critical and dissatisfied citizens

Maldivians continue to be highly cynical of politics. Seventy-one percent of Maldivians say that the government does not care about ordinary people and 94% of Maldivians believe that politicians are “ready to lie to get elected”.

Citizens continue to be critical of the social order: 80% think that power is concentrated in the hands of too few people. The good news is that 97% of the public believe dialogue is the way to solve the country’s problem. The bad news is that 1 in 3 think that violence is sometimes a necessary response to injustice.

Only 32% of Maldivians say that the country is headed in the “right direction”. While 59% of the population believe that Maldives is a democracy, only 45% of them are satisfied with the way democracy works in the Maldives. Seventy-two percent of Maldivians believe that level of corruption in the country has increased over the past year.

While membership in political parties is high among Maldivians, only 22% of Maldivians believe that parties serve the interest of the Maldivian people.

Support for democracy and gender equality

The most significant positive developments since 2013 concern citizens’ support for democracy. Most Maldivians prefer democracy as a form of government. A solid majority of 63% people believe that despite its problems democracy is still the best system compared to 59% in 2013. Seventy-seven percent of the respondents also think a democratic form of government is good for the country.

Such a straightforward positive conclusion is hard to be made about attitudes towards gender equality. Fifty-four percent of Maldivians now agree with the statement that men make better leaders than women, compared to 61% who agreed with the statement, indicating that despite the slight improvement support for gender equality is still worryingly low.

However, Maldivians are supportive of women being in some leadership positions. Eighty-four percent of respondents support women being elected to the parliament and 79% of Maldivians support the idea of women working as cabinet ministers. Unfortunately these trends do not hold for the position of a judge, the Vice President of the country or the President of the Country. Only 39% of Maldivians support a woman being elected as the President of the country.

A troubled future for democracy

“Democratic institutions and politicians must take extraordinary measures to regain public trust. Citizens, in their part, must step up to hold public officials to account,” said Shiuna.

“Political parties play a crucial role in democracies as they organise politics for citizens. The survey clearly shows the need for parties to reconnect with the people to achieve genuine democratic reforms,” she added.
The report concludes that unless these challenges are addressed, democracy has a “troubled future” in the Maldives.

ENDS

Please see these links for a PDF of the statements in English and Dhivehi.



Photo: Munshid Mohamed

Transparency Maldives notes with concern the amendments to the Employment Act passed by the Parliament that excludes migrant workers from Ramadan bonus.

The amendment constitutes as discrimination on the basis of nationality and is in clear violation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and the rights enunciated by the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights (UDHR) to which Maldives is a signatory to.

All workers deserves the same level of amenities and employment benefits regardless of which country they are from.

View/download the letter Transparency Maldives sent to the Speaker of the People’s Majlis regarding the amendments to the Employment Act.