Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 24
Political Influences: 27
Economic Pressures: 19
Total Score: 70
Life Expectancy: 72
Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim
Ethnic Groups: South Indian, Sinhalese, Arab
Freedom of expression and of the press are not provided for in the constitution and are 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. The law allows authorities to shut newspapers and sanction journalists for articles containing unfounded criticism of the government. Of the four employees of the internet magazine Sandhaanu, who were arrested in 2002 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, one escaped from prison and remains in exile, two were released into house arrest, and one was pardoned and released in May.
Employees of the independent pro-opposition news organization Minivan News faced repeated harassment from authorities during 2005. Journalists affiliated with the group were arrested while they attempted to cover news stories and by year's end seven of a total of fifteen staff had been investigated or detained on a variety of alleged charges including incitement, drugs possession, seditious activity, arms trafficking, and ties to Islamist extremism. In addition, a number of journalists were arrested and imprisoned during and after the August civil protests. In this environment, many journalists practice self-censorship and remain reluctant to overtly criticize official policies.
All broadcast media are government owned and operated, while relatives or close associates of the president control three of the four main daily newspapers, and these media outlets generally provide pro-government views. An online opposition publication, Minivan News, was allowed to begin publishing a print version in the Maldives in July, but after the August protests, the printing house refused to continue publishing it under pressure from the authorities. Groups of Maldivian exiles run independent news outlets in the U.K. and Sri Lanka and attempt to transmit news into the Maldives via short-wave radio stations and websites. Although the country's sole internet service provider is state-owned, internet access is generally not restricted. However, the websites of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and other news websites have been blocked by the government and are inaccessible from internet cafés in Male, and internet connectivity has on occasion been suspended.
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