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Maldives election body denies blocking foreign journalists

Foreign journalists are required to undergo background checks to apply for a visa.



The Maldives electoral body has denied obstructing foreign media from covering the September 23 presidential election.

In a statement Thursday, the Elections Commission expressed concern over “false allegations circulating in the media regarding international media coverage of the presidential elections, in a manner that may create concern and mistrust within the public and our international partners at such a crucial time for the country.”

It came after opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih called on authorities to “reverse restrictive measures against journalists” following reports that foreign reporters were being blocked from visiting the Maldives.

Foreign journalists are required to first seek a permit from the EC and then apply to the immigration department for a business visa. They must have a Maldivian sponsor and submit a police certificate, details of previous employment, travel history, and a bank account statement.

According to the EC, 37 applications were submitted by the August 14 deadline, of which 11 were rejected because of incomplete paperwork.

Journalists will be allowed to observe the election “as long as the necessary requirements have been met.”

The visa restrictions and background checks were imposed in the wake of a corruption exposé by Al Jazeera in late 2016.

Journalists who entered the country through a tourist visa have since then have been deported, including two AFP reporters who were kicked out during a state of emergency earlier this year.