Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, His Excellency Stef Blok, for hosting this timely event on a topic that holds great importance to the Government of Maldives.
In an increasingly diverse and polarised world, press freedom plays a pivotal role in connecting societies through continuous discourse. A free and vibrant press holds governments accountable and it also fosters strong democratic ideals. Despite their invaluable contributions to society, journalists worldwide are being deprived of their liberty and intimidated into silence. The need for the protection of journalists has become more crucial than ever, as we seek a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Maldives has witnessed a fluctuating pattern in press freedom throughout the years. When President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed office in 2018, it paved the way to end a culture of repression and impunity against journalists. With our renewed political will to restore the constitutional freedoms suppressed in the past, the Anti-Defamation Act of 2016 was repealed and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission was reconstituted. The Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances established by presidential decree is a testament of our resolve to find justice for the journalist Mr. Ahmed Rilwan, whose enforced disappearance shook the nation with grief.
Freedom of Speech and Expression is a fundamental right recognised throughout the course of history, from the Platonian Dialogues and the Proses of Voltaire to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our presence here today to defend this very right is a symbolic reminder that the answer to any human dilemma lies within unity and dialogue. I conclude my words with the comfort of knowing that they will reach millions of people in different corners of the world- a tremendous task I owe to the press covering today’s event.