Media groups voice concern over parliamentary probe into media report

Maldives Journalists Association (MJA)'s executive committee convene for a meeting. (Photo/MJA)

Local media groups including the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and Editors Guild have issued statements expressing concern over the decision by a parliamentary committee to look into information attributed to an anonymous source in an investigative report published by a local news outlet regarding security at Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed’s private residence.

Online news outlet Mihaaru published an investigative report last week titled ‘Nasheed warned by MNDF of inability to provide security at Canaryge and the potential risks”. The report cites an anonymous source within Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF).

Parliament’s Security Services Committee decided on Saturday to look into the report, stating that MNDF officers are prohibited from public disclosure of sensitive information they obtain in the discharge of their official duties.

MJA, in a statement this Sunday, said that it is working to find out whether the scope of Security Services Committee’s probe extends to an investigation into Mihaaru or any of their employees.

It expressed deep concern over the situation and reiterated the importance of protecting journalistic sources in the context of press freedom and other fundamental rights such as freedom of expression.

“Under the existing press freedom framework and established practices in the Maldives, MJA does not believe a news organization or journalist can be investigated in this way or that attempts can be made to force the disclosure of sources used by a journalist to report a story,” said MJA in its statement.

Ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused Mihaaru of shifting blame of the attack on May 6 when an IED was detonated outside Nasheed’s residence on Nasheed himself, harassing him, and of peddling propaganda from behind the scenes.

Editors Guild has issued statement describing MDP’s portrayal of the report as “propaganda”, as “a shadow cast over free press”.

The group noted that journalists have the fundamental right to keep their sources anonymous, and questioned how the Security Services Committee could conduct its investigation without questioning the journalist or the source.

“We therefore find such statements condemning journalists instead of looking into the real issue to be an attempt to cast a shadow over the free press. And we find this deeply concerning,” said the Editors Guild in its statement.

“Editors will not stand for attempts to penalize media outlets and marginalize journalists in response to a published report. And we do not find the allegation against ‘Mihaaru’ in relation to this case to be justifiable.”