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10/04/11 Maldives (Minivan News) – Media freedom has remained steady in the Maldives following significant gains in 2009, according to a report by Freedom House.
The country was found to be a “partly free” environment for media, with the constitution protecting freedom of expression “but also restricting freedom of speech ‘contrary to the tenets of Islam’.”
The report was published prior to the release of new regulations enforcing the Religious Unity Act, which bans media ‘from producing or publicising programs, talking about or disseminating audio ‘that humiliates Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith’,” imposing a 2-5 year prison sentence.

Increased media diversity had improved coverage of major political events, including by the state broadcaster, “though the [MNBC] still suffers from pro-government bias.”
Investigative journalism, Freedom House noted, “remains hampered by the lack of an access to information law and a culture of secrecy at government departments.”

The government had “generally” avoided interfering with internet access, used by approximately 28 percent of the population in 2010, however “the Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced in 2008 that Christian and anti-Islam websites would be blocked, arguing that they could negatively affect belief in Islam, and a number of websites were blocked by the Telecommunication Authority at Ministry’s request during 2009.”
Journalists meanwhile remained subject to “some harassment”, with incidents including an attack in August 2010 on the offices of VTV by “unknown assailants”, “and a police attack on journalists covering a political protest in October.” Verbal attacks included threats against media outlets from Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) MP Reeko Moosa, and repeated death threats against certain bloggers “from Islamist extremists”.
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