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Maldives election monitoring open to foreign media

Gaining access to the Maldives has been tough for foreign media in the past two years.



Foreign press wanting to report on the Maldives presidential election can apply to do so, the Elections Commission said, but it is unclear if they will have to undergo background checks.

The commission will authorise valid international monitoring applications submitted before the August 14 deadline, but warned action will be taken against journalists found to be reporting on the poll without prior permission.

Gaining access to the Maldives has been tough for foreign media in the past two years, with visa rules tightened after a documentary about alleged corruption and abuse of power by President Abdulla Yameen.

Immigration rules currently require foreign journalists to submit a vetting form, details of previous employment, travel history, qualifications, bank account details and a police certificate to get a work or business visa.

Applications opened on June 26, according to an EC press release.

“It is our objective that the presence of international media will determine the clarity of this election,” said the EC.

Application forms are available from the English section of the website.

Journalists are asked to submit a completed form, a passport copy and proof of accreditation from the outlet they represent.

EC member Ahmed Akram told the Maldives Independent that journalists would be helped to cover the election “within the rules and regulations of the country.”

He refused to say whether visa restrictions on journalists will be lifted during the election period, saying that “laws, rules and regulations must be followed” even during the election.

Work and business visa applications from foreign journalists have been rejected, although there is no official ban on granting visas to them.

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