The rank of the Maldives has again dropped in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the international NGO, Reporters Without Borders (RWB), to promote and defend the freedom of information across the world.
According to the Paris-based organisation’s annual index which analyses the freedom of press across 180 countries in the world, the Maldives is currently ranked 120, three rankings down from the previous year’s placing at 117. The nation’s global score is 37.95 compared to the score of 39.30 in 2017.
RWB stated in its report that the Maldivian government has continually been stepping up its persecution of independent media since the fall of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration in February 2012.
The organization highlighted the contentious Freedom of Speech and Defamation Act passed by the parliament in August 2016, which criminalises defamation and accords authorities the power to shut down media outlets for “defamatory” content. Noting that numerous journalists have been the targets of threats, RWB cited a report published by Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) that the leading source of the threats were political parties, followed by criminal gangs and religious extremists.
RWB also touched upon the brutal murder of Yameen Rasheed, a renowned blogger who was stabbed to death in April 2017 after receiving numerous death threats.
RWB added that press freedom in the Maldives further declined with the state of emergency declared in early February 2018 which allowed the government to “intimidate reporters and close independent media outlets”.
With regards to the rankings of South Asian countries in the Press Freedom Index, the Maldives falls behind Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan. Ranked behind the Maldives are Sri Lanka at 131, India at 138, Pakistan at 139 and Bangladesh at 146.
The highest ranking that the Maldives attained on the World Press Freedom Index was 73 in 2011. However, the nation’s ranking has been on the decline ever since. The Maldives’ rankings on World Press Freedom Index over the past six years:
2013 – 103 2014 – 108 2015 – 112 2016 – 112 2017 – 117 2018 – 120
The highest ranked countries on the World Press Freedom Index this year are Norway, Sweden and Netherlands respectively, followed by Finland and Switzerland.
Ranked last is North Korea which is preceded by Entrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.