The annual journalism awards handed out Tuesday night by the Maldives Media Council has been heavily criticised over the snub of former president Mohamed Nasheed and honouring of the broadcasting regulator’s chief.
Mohamed Shaheeb, chair of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, was among eight former journalists recognised with Alimas Galan (Diamond Jubilee Pen) awards to mark 75 years after the first print publication of government news.
During the previous administration, the regulator used a draconian anti-defamation law to slap hefty fines on private broadcasters, including more than MVR3.7 million (US$240,000) on Raajje TV for airing speeches deemed defamatory towards former president Abdulla Yameen.
On social media, Raajje TV journalists called the award for Shaheeb an “insult” to press freedom. He caused “irreparable damage” to Maldivian journalism, said Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, the station’s former chief operating officer and one of the award winners, calling for Shaheeb’s award to be taken back.
The awards were also criticised for the omission of former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was jailed numerous times for critical reporting during former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign.
Gayoom was among eight recipients of the Diamond Jubilee Pen of Honour award for promoting journalism.
“I have been charged and imprisoned over 14 times, mostly for writing dissenting journalism. Congratulations to President Gayoom for receiving the honour marking the Diamond Jubilee of Maldives Journalism,” Nasheed tweeted.
Yameen's gov rolled #Maldives #PressFreedom back to authoritarian times. Shaheeb, as chief media regulator, was responsible for slapping those restrictions on media. Kicking off new era of freedom by awarding him for good journalism doesn't bode well https://t.co/RdC9I44dKE
— AzraNaseem (@Manje) December 12, 2018
Shaheeb headed a commission that worked to bankrupt & silence any opposition voices or critical opinions in media. Now he’s been recognised for his “contribution” to journalism. Who makes these decisions @presidencymv? This is nothing but a slap in the face free press! @ibusolih
— Aeko Fathih (@aekofathih) December 12, 2018
You gave this country the power and the strength to speak and to exercise the the freedom of expression and speech ! I remember Sangu as the first to speak out . I will honour you the diamond pen Sir !
— Lubna (@LubnaZahir) December 12, 2018
It is disappointing that at the award ceremony hosted by @mmc_mv to mark the 75th Anniversary of Journalism in the Maldives, @MohamedNasheed’s contributions did not receive merit nor recognition. It is a glaring omission that is hard to miss.
— Akram Kamaludeen (@Akramkdeen) December 11, 2018
Award or not,Pres.Nasheed’s contribution to Maldives journalism is immense.When journalists were facing persecution in every front he stood firm n tall,revolutionized journalism,both in content and language. Faced imprisonments and torture for his efforts.If any does he deserves.
— Mohamed Muizz Adnan (@muizzadnan) December 12, 2018
Not even one word of recognition last night, for this person who spent all his life thru thick and thin for freedom of press, speech and expression. Awards for people who were hell bent towards killing the press and journalism. What the f—- was that last night???? pic.twitter.com/MUPINZESlZ
— SunilThiyara (@sunilthiyara) December 12, 2018
I wonder how many people who worked in various local media were threatened/tortured/charged/jailed/sentenced/imprisoned for criticizing the 30yr dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
He surely deserve another award for that. https://t.co/zVMf5mMns9
— Aishath Aniya (@Aniya_A) December 12, 2018
celebration of journalism? Oh come on! You recognized and rewarded your own PROPAGANDA HAVEERU ZAHIR HUSSEIN’s Boys, didn’t you, you old dictator….everyone is laughing at your antics now! Varah Vedhun @Vainujeheyge @Naushadarts
— Ahmed Ali Naseer (@AANaseer) December 12, 2018