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Business lobby calls for ban on foreign press over ‘damage to Maldives tourism’

Foreign journalists have been biased in their reporting on the Maldives and must be banned from working long-term in the Maldives, says the MNCCI



A business lobby group has urged President Abdulla Yameen to ban foreign journalists from working in the Maldives, citing damage to the economy and the tourism sector.

The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries said foreign journalists were “biased in their coverage of the Maldives.” A ban would also increase opportunities for “hardworking and young local journalists,” the group said.

“Therefore this organisation advice government authorities to ban foreign journalists from working long-term in the Maldives,” the MNCCI said in a statement on Thursday.

Ismail Asif, the vice president of the MNCCI, was not responding to calls for comment at the time of going to press.

It is not clear if the group is calling for a ban on foreigners who wish to live and work in the Maldives or on all foreigners, including journalists who visit the Maldives on short assignments.

The proposal comes amid growing international press attention on the Maldives’ protracted political crisis and corruption allegations against President Abdulla Yameen.

Al Jazeera is due to broadcast a documentary with new evidence of corruption, theft and abuse of power by Yameen. The news caused a stir on social media, rousing anti-government sentiment and prompting MPs and government officials to jump to Yameen’s defence. One ruling party lawmaker has threatened to sue the Doha-based broadcaster.

The New York Times also published Sunday a report alleging Yameen’s involvement in “questionable oil sales to a Myanmar dictatorship under economic sanctions.”

The BBC also revealed Thursday what it called a plot to remove Yameen from power.

A four-member German TV crew and a Polish photographer and her husband have been deported and slapped with a ten-year entry ban for filming and taking photos without permits. The department of immigration has since set new rules requiring background checks for foreign journalists and photographers wanting to work in the Maldives.

The MNCCI, in proposing the ban on foreign press, also noted that the government has barred foreign photographers from working here in order to open up jobs for local photographers.

Economic minister Mohamed Saeed said last week that the government will no longer issue visas to foreign photographers to work in the country. The policy is not easy to implement, but would generate more revenue for local photographers.

Some 60 Maldivians have been sent to train in Dubai to replace foreign photographers working in the tourism sector.