Maldive Journalists Protest Firing, Accuse DhiFM of Breaking Ethics

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See above an image from the protest in the Maldives. (Credit: Minivan News)

Six journalists are protesting outside their former place of employment – a radio station in the Maldives – after four were fired, Minivan News reported. The journalists claim that the radio station violated journalism ethics.

The journalists worked for the private radio station DhiFM and are protesting “claiming unfair dismissal and editorial pressure for negative coverage of the government.”

The protest started Oct. 3.

“The protest itself involved six guys standing outside an office with placards (‘Protect the rights of the journalists’ and ‘Stop using media as a propaganda machine’) for several hours, but they seem to have attracted wider sympathy among the rank-and-file of the Maldivian media,” Minivan News wrote to iMediaEthics.  “One of the resignations is currently of more concern for industry here, as it could potentially lead to a showdown in court over the country’s shield laws.”

“We are all protesting because our organisation terminated its staff in violation of the Employment Act and because it has also broken media ethics,” Minivan News reported one of the journalists said, adding that four of the six protesters were fired and the remaining two resigned.

Further, Minivan News reported that the journalists claim they’re owed money from their station and that they weren’t warned prior to losing their jobs.

One of the protesting journalists explained that while management said they were fired to save money, the station has been hiring new employees, Minivan News explained.

Another reporter, Gufthaq Ajeel, quit because he says that the station’s management violated source confidentiality and “leaked” the identity of his anonymous source, according to Minivan News.  Also, Ajeel hjas reportedly filed a complaint against the management with the police because the country’s constitution protects source confidentiality.

DhIFM CEO Masoodh Hilmy is told Minivan News that three of the six quit and the other three were let go “due to punctuality and disciplinary issues.” (This is contrary to the journalists’ self-identification that four were fired and two resigned.  Minivan News wrote to iMediaEthics explaining the discrepancy as “One person’s resignation is another person’s sacking – and one person’s standing up for media freedom is another person’s insubordination.”) He said that they were given notice before being fired and that the employees terminated were properly paid.

The Maldives Journalists Association president, Ahmed Hiriga Zahir, is quoted as telling Minivan News that one of the protesting journalists let the asslociation know of the protest plans but that the association hasn’t talked to the management regarding the matter. (The journalists association explains on its website that it is a journalist rights advocacy and protection group.)

However, the association has “yet to evolve into a  journalists’ union and was more focused on promoting issues such as media freedom,” Minivan News reported.

Minivan News is an independent news organization in the Maldives.  Its website explains that “Minivan” means “Independent” in Dhiveni, the official language of the Maldives.

In an e-mail to iMediaEthics, Minivan News recommended this link for a brief overview of the media environment in the Maldives.  The article, by J.J. Robinson, explains that “partisan media” is standing in the way of Maldivian journalists’ reporting ethically.

“The Maldivian media needs to move beyond the basics of reporting and on to media ethics if it is to build its credibility, become independent and break free from the influence of partisan politics, urged visiting journalism trainer Tiare Rath, Iraq Editorial Manager for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR),” Robinson wrote.

iMediaEthicshas written to the Maldives Journalists Association for comment and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 10/11/2010 11:15 AM EST:  Ahmed Zahir, president of the Maldives Journalists Association, wrote in an e-mail to iMediaEthics that regarding the protest, “we have no intention getting in to directly that issue, but we have offered what ever support they want we will be happy to help them.”

He added that, as reported in Minivan News, the association is working to become a union, “but we have a lack of funds,” so there’s no timetable.

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Maldive Journalists Protest Firing, Accuse DhiFM of Breaking Ethics

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