The government is committed to preserving the freedom of news websites, irrespective of their registration status, Minister of Cities, Local Government and Public Works Adam Shareef Umar has asserted.

This assurance comes in the wake of widespread public outrage, with rights groups and the opposition expressing criticism and concern over the government’s decision to block three websites earlier this month, one of which was a registered news outlet. Despite the government’s initial assertion that it would not stop any registered website, ‘Furathama’ was blocked. The restrictions on ‘Furathama’ was later lifted, but the other two ‘unregistered’ websites, and, remain inaccessible from the Maldives.

The blocking of the websites elicited strong condemnation from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), indicating a potential opposition to Umar’s cabinet confirmation. Umar is facing scrutiny as the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM), responsible for the website blocks, falls under his proposed ministry.

In an interview with a local media outlet, Umar said President Mohamed Muizzu decided to block pornographic websites as they contravene Maldivian laws and pose a threat to the social fabric of the nation. While the public supported the blocking of pornographic websites, the blocking of anti-government websites, ‘’ and ‘’, provoked a storm of outrage across social media platforms. These websites were blocked days after the government implemented a sweeping ban on pornographic websites.

Umar stated that CAM blocks websites after receiving directions from the Maldives Media Council (MMC), Maldives Police Service (MPS), or Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). However, MMC was one institution that issued a statement expressing concern over the government’s decision to block the Furathama news website.

“In the absence of a direct threat to an individual’s safety or national security, the government will refrain from issuing directives to block any website,” Umar said in his interview. Regarding blocking anti-government websites, Umar stated that the decision to block those websites was made after they violated general policies and shared content, which incited strife. He added that the government will not stop such websites in the future.

“Websites were blocked due to violations of established policies and their role in fomenting discord. I am not in favour of blocking any websites, and I anticipate that the government will refrain from such actions in the future,” Umar said.