The Maldivian government is under severe criticism following the blockade of two websites known for publishing anti-government content, sparking widespread concern among members of the public, advocates for freedom of expression, and the opposition.

This censorship move comes on the heels of the government’s decision to block pornographic websites, a policy publicly announced by President Mohamed Muizzu. However, the recent targeting of and, both inaccessible since Thursday on local networks, marks a significant escalation in governmental control over digital content.

These developments stand in stark contrast with the Maldivian Constitution, which explicitly guarantees freedom of expression (Article 27), media freedom (Article 28), and the freedom to acquire and impart knowledge (Article 29), all within the context of Islamic tenets.

Chief Government Spokesperson Mohamed Shahyb, refuted public concerns, asserting the government’s commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression. He said that no sites registered and operating in compliance with Maldivian laws and regulations have been blocked by the government.

Contradicting this, FurathamaNews, a registered media outlet, alerted relevant media bodies that its website was shut down following the publication of an article on Thursday criticising the government.

This prompted harsh condemnation from the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA), Maldives Editors Guild, and Transparency Maldives, who called the government’s actions an infringement on constitutionally protected rights to information, press freedom, and free expression.

The government spokesperson’s refutations were challenged by the MJA, whose international network of security experts confirmed that the sites were blocked through local internet service providers.

The Maldives Media Council condemned the government’s actions, noting that while blogs and unregistered digital platforms fall under its purview per the Media Council Act, blocking these sites without lodging complaints or conducting investigations through the MMC is a threat to media freedom in the country.

Fayyaz Ismail, chairperson of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), described the blocking of anti-government websites as “alarming and concerning.” In a post on X (formerly Twitter, Ismail said, “It is now very clear and apparent that the only thing keeping in check widespread tyranny is the lack of a gov[ernment] majority in Parliament. The outlook is bleak and dangerous.”

The MDP, in a statement, stressed the importance of Maldivians exercising their constitutional right to express views “openly and without censorship.” It highlighted past abuses of state power between 2012 and 2018, calling on the government to lift online restrictions and halt democratic backsliding.

The newly formed Democrats also condemned the actions, asserting that freedom of expression is a core tenet of upholding constitutional liberties, noting that Maldives cannot afford further regression of the freedom of the press; “it is a hard- won right by the Maldivian people. Any interference with the right to a full and free media is a violation of a constitutional right”.

They further noted that “both online papers are seen to frequently peddle in outright “fake news.” However, the government cannot use the pretext of combatting fake news as an excuse to muzzle the media. The Maldives, like many other societies, will have to find more responsible, and long- lasting means to combat the spread of fake news”. 

Public response, particularly on social media, mirrors these concerns. Many perceive these actions as a direct threat to journalistic freedom and a worrying sign of the government’s readiness to silence critical voices. Comparisons are drawn with the regime of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, under whom media regulators were politicised, leading to fines and shutdowns for government criticism.