RSF: Amendments to election law restricting journos an obstacle to democracy

A press conference at the President's Office. (Photo/President's Office)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the largest non-government organization working advocating for the rights of journalists, has called on the Maldivian government to withdraw the amendment proposed to the election law that would prevent freelance and foreign journalists from covering September’s election.

The amendment submitted to the parliament by the government reads that only “registered journalists” would be admitted to polling stations and vote-counting places. Such a change is highly likely to prevent freelance and foreign journalists from covering the elections.

Daniel Bastard, Head of RSF’s called on the Maldivian government to withdraw the bill.

“Drafted without consulting journalists and submitted to parliament just six months before a major election, this ambiguously-worded amendment to the electoral law sends an alarming signal about reporting freedom and democracy in the Maldives. We call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government to immediately withdraw this dangerous bill and to ensure that the media can play their role as independent election observers without hindrance,” he said.

RSF stressed that the amendment restricts the freedom to report while it also fuels suspicions about vote rigging.

Elections Commission’s (EC) Vice President Ismail Habeeb, in an earlier statement, said that journalists serving as observers in polling stations will be mandated to complete a two-hour training session to be accredited by EC.

Other organizations that have expressed concern over the amendment said it obstructs covering the election with utmost transparency while it increases the possibility of vote rigging leading to subsequent disputes.

These organizations include Maldives Journalist Association (MJA), Transparency Maldives, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).