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PRESS RELEASE – August 02, 2016

Transparency Maldives (TM) calls on the Parliament of the Maldives to immediately reconsider the proposed bill criminalising defamation. At a time when fundamental civil and political liberties are under stringent restrictions of the State, the proposed defamation bill will be a further step back for press freedom and freedom of speech in the Maldives.

While recognising that a defamation law is required to protect people’s reputation, defamation must not be treated as a criminal matter but as a civil matter. Criminalising defamation will restrict freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 27 of the Constitution of Maldives.

Similarly, UN Human Rights committee, (UNHRCm), considers the criminalisation of libel to be a violation of freedom of expression and to be inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Following concerns raised by journalists, civil society organizations, political parties and international actors on the initial draft, there was a glimmer of hope that this bill would be substantially revised in line with the Constitution of the Maldives and international best practice. Instead, a revised defamation bill has been tabled which does not address the concerns raised by journalists and human rights advocates in the country. Similarly, concerns raised by the Maldives Media Council were also disregarded.

Anyone convicted under the proposed Law could be fined between MVR 50,000 to MVR 2 million and if unable to pay the fine, face a jail term of 3 to 6 months.

While many democratic countries do have defamation laws, it is important to note that such countries also have mechanisms and conditions set to promote and protect free speech. However, in the Maldives free speech is in decline and the State has consistently failed to protect freedom of speech.

This bill is yet another attempt to stifle freedom of expression and dissenting voice in the Maldives. This proposed law will severely restrict media freedoms and the people’s ability to hold the Government to account.

Transparency Maldives calls on the Parliament to reconsider criminalising defamation and substantially review the proposed law so that it is in line with accepted international standards and the Constitution of the Maldives.

ENDS

View/download the press release in English and Dhivehi.

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PRESS RELEASE – June 30, 2016

Transparency Maldives (TM) notes with concern the increasing intimidation and challenges faced by watchdog bodies, activists and media outlets reporting on corruption in the Maldives. Bypassing principles of transparency and accountability with complete impunity is becoming a common trend in the Maldives with changes made in legal mechanisms to facilitate corruption.

The recent amendment made to the Tourism Act to lease islands without a competitive bidding process contravenes principles of transparency and accountability. Instead of addressing the issues identified in the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) corruption scandal, where islands were given away for resort development, allegedly through corrupt deals, this new amendment builds on past corrupt practices and seeks to legalise similar corrupt behavior. In submitting and passing this amendment the Government of Maldives and the People’s Majlis has blatantly disregarded public concerns as well as concerns raised by the ACC over the lack of transparency, accountability and integrity in the leasing of islands for resort development. It appears that the Government has not learned any lessons from the MMPRC corruption scandal where an estimated USD 72 million of state fund was lost, and plans to continue on the same track and engage in legalised corruption. TM reminds the Government to honour its obligations under UN Convention Against Corruption and ensure transparency, competition and objective criteria in decision-making on public matters and resources.

TM condemns the continued persecution of anti-corruption actors in the Maldives, including media outlets and anti-corruption activists. The most recent example is the closing down of the online news website CNM, which recently reported on corruption allegations against First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim regarding the distribution of dates given by the Saudi Government and the fixed Hajj quota allotted to the First Lady. The minority shareholder and editor-in-chief of CNM cited political pressure as the reason for closing down CNM. The closing of CNM comes amidst increasing restrictions on press freedom and threats against journalists.

The on-going case against Gasim Abdul Kareem, former Manager at Bank of Maldives F. Nilandhoo branch, is a case where a possible whistleblower is being persecuted. Gasim  revealing information related to the bank transactions of SOF. Pvt Ltd.––the company accused of stealing USD 80 million of public money obtained through MMPRC resort leases–– may amount to whistleblowing.  As a consequence of revealing this information, Gasim has been in detention on charges of unlawful acquisition and disclosure of private information, since February 2016. Before any formal charges were made against him, Gasim was held in detention for over three months. TM believes that disclosure of information in public interest and in good faith by any individual to expose corruption should not amount to criminal prosecution.

TM calls on the People’s Majlis to provide legal safeguards for whistleblowers by enacting and enforcing comprehensive whistleblower protection laws based on international standards. The Government must provide protection for those who engage in anti-corruption activism, and ensure that the ACC is able to conduct their investigations into corruption cases, particularly the MMPRC case, free from intimidation and political coercion.

ENDS

View/download the press release in English and Dhivehi.


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