Male, August 28 (Maldives Independent): The Maldivian business lobby has urged President Abdulla Yameen to ban foreign journalists from working in the Maldives, citing damage to the economy and the tourism sector.
The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) said foreign journalists are “biased in their coverage of the Maldives.” A ban would also increase opportunities for “hardworking and young local journalists,” the group said.
“Therefore this organization advices government authorities to ban foreign journalists from working long-term in the Maldives,” the MNCCI said in a statement on Thursday.
It is not clear if the group is calling for a ban on foreigners who wish to live and work in the Maldives or on all foreigners, including journalists who visit the Maldives on short assignments.
The proposal comes amid growing international press attention on the Maldives’ protracted political crisis and corruption allegations against President Abdulla Yameen.
Al Jazeera is due to broadcast a documentary with new evidence of corruption, theft and abuse of power by Yameen. The news caused a stir on social media, rousing anti-government sentiment and prompting MPs and government officials to jump to Yameen’s defense. One ruling party lawmaker has threatened to sue the Doha-based broadcaster.
The New York Times also published on Sunday a report alleging Yameen’s involvement in “questionable oil sales to a Myanmar dictatorship under economic sanctions.”
The BBC revealed on Thursday what it called a plot to remove Yameen from power.
A four-member German TV crew and a Polish photographer and her husband have been deported and slapped with a ten-year entry ban for filming and taking photos without permits.
Govt Slaps Visa Restrictions on Journalists
Meanwhile, the department of immigration has since set new rules requiring background checks for foreign journalists and photographers wanting to work in the Maldives.
The MNCCI, in proposing the ban on foreign press, also noted that the government has barred foreign photographers from working here in order to open up jobs for local photographers.
Economic minister Mohamed Saeed said last week that the government will no longer issue visas to foreign photographers to work in the country. The policy is not easy to implement, but would generate more revenue for local photographers.
Some 60 Maldivians have been sent to train in Dubai to replace foreign photographers working in the tourism sector.
Yameen’s Followers Rise To His Defense
Following reports of efforts to overthrow the Yameen regime, Ministers and MPs on his side have launched move to defend him.
The rhetoric on social media and the national airwaves has been ultra-nationalistic. The opposition is being slammed as traitors, and Maldivians are being urged to “close ranks against colonial powers,” described by some as involved in an effort to destroy the Islamic faith here.
“Even if a gun is held to President Yameen’s head and he is ordered to sign a resignation letter, he will not sign it, even if he falls dead,” Ahmed Nihan, the majority leader, declared to pink-clad members of the Progressive Party of the Maldives on the southern island of Fuvahmulah on Friday.
Adam Shareef, the Defence Minister, said security forces were on alert to foil any attempt at a coup d’état.
“We are keeping a close watch on the political landscape. The military and government offices are connected. The army will not allow a transfer of power,” he said in the meeting televised on TVM, the state broadcaster.
The minister, who had led a gathering to promote patriotism and love of nation among soldiers on Wednesday, said he must speak out against a coup “because we know the challenges faced in countries were governments were ousted through coups. It destroys the nation, sovereignty, economies and societies.”
Others ministers and MPs accused the opposition coalition, Maldives United Opposition, of fear mongering, driven by a jealousy of Yameen’s successful development agenda. A shirtless man meanwhile took his underage son on stage to praise Yameen for paying his son’s medical costs.
On Twitter, Yameen loyalists launched a campaign with the hashtag ‘Healing Paradise,’ a pun on an upcoming corruption expose of the Yameen administration by Al Jazeera, titled ‘Stealing Paradise.’
“Foreigners have always plotted to rob us of our beautiful country,” one supporter declared. “We must all roll up our sleeves against the coup,” another said.