The government, as part of its media reform efforts, is currently drafting a bill to merge the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) and the Maldives Media Council (MMC) into a single institution, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts Ibrahim Waheed has revealed.

The proposed bill is part of the legislative agenda of President Mohamed Muizzu, and it is aimed at strengthening the media and the press, according to the information minister. “We are formulating strategies within the confines of the state budget to foster and enhance the media and press sectors,” said Waheed. It is not the policy of the Muizzu administration for government offices and institutions to obstruct press freedom and expression, he stressed.

The minister added that the administration would address challenges and create a conducive environment where the media can exercise their rights responsibly. He outlined plans for a ‘media village’ close to the commencement of physical work.

In addition to these measures, the government also plans to provide higher education opportunities for journalists and simplify the registration process for newspapers, he said. While there are 265 registered media outlets, 17 new ones have been registered since President Muizzu took office.

However, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed scepticism over the sincerity of the current government regarding media freedom. In a statement issued on World Press Freedom Day, the party voiced serious concerns about the state of press freedom in the country.

The party highlighted the blocking of two news websites critical of the government, the dissemination of misinformation through official channels over the past six months, and the sudden change in rules of the President’s Office prohibiting journalists from carrying mobile devices into press conferences as systemic attempts to obstruct freedom of the press.

Meanwhile, Vice President Hussain Mohamed Latheef, in an interview with the public service broadcaster, disclosed that a parcel of land in Hulhumalé has been earmarked to develop the proposed media village, in alignment with President Muizzu’s commitment. Latheef indicated that plans are being drawn up to accommodate media personnel within the proposed facility, although he refrained from divulging further specifics of the venture.