By Ismail Naseer
The following editorial appeared in the first issue of the newly launched Mihaaru (Now) newspaper. It has been translated and republished with permission.
31 March saw the beginning of a painful time for the team of seventy-five employed by Haveeru. With no means of income, life has been difficult. The group of journalists’ decision to form a new newspaper was based on their fundamental right of choosing their mode employment.
‘Haveeru’ is the past; Mihaaru’ the beginning of another journey. But we have to talk about Haveeru now because it is the main reason why all these employees had to climb this platform we are on today. On 31 March, when with the civil court order, we said goodbye to the biggest newspaper in the Maldives, all the people who worked there resigned and based their future with this newspaper here.
There were 75 employees working for the Haveeru Media Group when the civil court issued its verdict to halt publication of Haveeru and Haveeru Online. This halted not just that particular media, but the lives of the 75 and their families. Most of us paid rent for places in Malé. And so the halting inevitably meant that our first concern was living. The answer to the pressing question of when there would be a resolution of the dispute between the Haveeru shareholders hovered in the air. No one could think of a way to solve the issue of how to support our livelihoods. For some of us, who had worked there some 25, 26 years, leaving their place of work proved to be a deeply distressing affair.
So there was that issue of our livelihoods on the one hand. On the other, the public and the readership had their own questions about the sudden void in independent media this left. A large part of the public desired the revival of our publication. To this compulsion, we had to add the obligation we had towards our livelihoods. In the last two months, we hadn’t been paid properly. Whose responsibility was this? We didn’t know whom we had to approach to get paid. This concerned no one but the team, and thus the last few weeks have been fraught with challenges in our personal lives. Our families have suffered.
The Idea of Another Newspaper
Prior to March 31, the team was not concerned about the ongoing trial at the civil court. But when the court order came stating that, instead of the Haveeru Media Group, we couldn’t operate Haveeru without the involvement of two people we hadn’t known before, we had to think about our futures. The team came up with the idea of setting up another newspaper and website because this was our profession, and because we wished to continue in the same path.
The Haveeru team saw no obstacles to resign from the Haveeru Media Group, or to work in journalism. From their resignation onwards, the Haveeru issue is no longer their concern.
The constitution grants every citizen the right to engage in any employment or occupation. It also states that no one shall be forced to discontinue work. As the Haveeru team saw it, there were no obstacles to them resigning from the Haveeru, and continuing to work as journalists. From their resignation onwards, the Haveeru issue is no longer their concern.
Other companies that are far more financially advanced and larger than Haveeru have had ownership disputes that have been resolved by courts. None of those cases have had court orders over the actions of their employees. And none of them have stated that they couldn’t work in a similar field as the disputed companies. Until then, issues between the company and its staff were resolved at the Labour Tribunal.
The civil court order asked for the employees to respect the agreement between them and Haveeru. And not to use any resources that belong to Haveeru. The staff of Mihaaru, even on the day of its commencement, have been using its own equipment. We haven’t infringed on any of Haveeru’s intellectual property or copyright. Even the pencils we are using in this office have been obtained by the donations of well-wishers. There is no role of any shareholder of the Haveeru Media Group.
The journalists and staff of Mihaaru now recognise Haveeru as a bygone. None of them are employed by the Haveeru Media Group. Every Maldivian has the right to resign from their jobs at any time of their discretion.
We Want Press Freedom
In Mihaaru, our aim is to provide independent, unbiased news. We have experienced writers and journalists to take us there. They will have no personal vendettas in their reporting. The code of conduct at Mihaaru is based on a more complete and professional standard. Maldives will come to see Mihaaru as an unprejudiced news provider. Every journalist at Mihaaru has an obligation to bring concise, good quality writing.
It is a challenging task to bring together a new paper and design a completely new news website. Mihaaru news will be published by a small, independent press. We will be improving the print quality in the near future.
Hard work has been done to launch a new website in just two months. And it, too, will continue to improve in the coming days.
Mihaaru is not influenced by anyone. The Mihaaru team began work with the satisfaction of knowing that.
Ismail Naseer is the editor of Mihaaru.
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