Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of expression and of the press is not provided for in the constitution and is generally not respected by the government in practice. The penal code bans speech and publications that threaten national security, insult Islam, or could "arouse people against the government," while other regulations make editors criminally responsible for the content of the material they publish. The press council, which is composed of lawyers, media representatives, and government officials, is mandated with reviewing lapses of journalistic conduct. In March 2003, the government amended the press law to allow for the closure of publications if they failed to publish regularly; it then canceled the licenses of 22 such publications.
Authorities are also legally empowered to shut down newspapers and sanction journalists for articles containing unfounded criticism of the government. In January 2002, four writers for Sandhaanu, an Internet magazine, were arrested, and after being held in detention and charged with defamation, three were sentenced to life imprisonment in July, although the sentences were later reduced to 15 years each. One of the so-called cyber dissidents escaped from custody in 2003 and now lives in exile; when the other three, who had been released into house arrest, took part in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in August 2004, they were rearrested and reportedly tortured in prison. In this environment, many journalists and publishers practice self-censorship and remain reluctant to overtly criticize official policies.
All broadcast media are owned and operated by the government, while close associates of the president control the main daily newspapers. Although the country's sole Internet service provider is state owned, Internet access is generally not restricted. However, after being banned by the government, the Web sites of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and other antigovernment groups are inaccessible from Internet cafes in Male, and Internet connectivity was suspended entirely following the civil unrest in August.