Media and Press Freedom Politics

Government welcomes MDP ‘decision’ to take part in presidential poll

The Maldives government welcomed the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s “decision” to take part in this year’s presidential elections.

A statement issued Sunday also congratulated veteran lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for joining the fray and being the MDP’s pick for the race after ex-president Mohamed Nasheed stepped aside as its choice.

“The government believes that nominating an eligible candidate is a move forward in the path of democracy and towards holding free, fair, transparent and successful elections,” the government said.

President Abdulla Yameen sent a letter to Solih, popularly known as Ibu, and one minister hoped that the MDP’s new selection meant that “honest campaigning” could now begin.

The government and the Elections Commission insist that Nasheed is ineligible as a candidate because of a criminal conviction, despite the charge against him and trial being widely condemned.

Nasheed gave up his ticket late last month over concerns the party would be left without a candidate, with his move sparking fierce debate within the MDP.

He said urgent reforms were needed to guarantee Maldivians’ rights to a free and fair poll.

“Thus far, all evidence points to scheme by Pres YAG to steal Sept elections,” he tweeted.

The EC says otherwise. It invited foreign media to take part in monitoring the poll, saying their presence would determine its “clarity.”

It asked interested journalists to submit applications online by August 14. However, the form was inaccessible at the time of going to press as the page kept crashing. It is not clear if the form exists.

Foreign journalists are not barred from the Maldives, but there is no visa category for them and access to the country is tough.

Most foreign journalists on assignment enter on 30-day tourist visas, risking deportation if they are discovered.

Immigration says all foreign nationals intending to work in the country should obtain either a business or work visa and that this requirement also applies to journalists.

The business visa application form is a two-page document.

Immigration says foreign media are also required to submit Vetting Form IM32 after the government set new rules requiring background checks over a documentary about alleged corruption and abuse of power by Yameen.

IM32 requires the following: a bank statement less than six months old, a medical report less than three months old and a police report less than a year old.

It also asks applicants to list previous employment, travel history for the last two years, educational qualifications and details of friends or family in the Maldives.

It is not clear if journalists wishing to monitor the election will be subject to background checks.

The Maldives ranks 120 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index, after the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed and further restrictions on the media.

Full details are available at the link below:

Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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