Upholding a Cornerstone of Democracy ⁠— The Media Needs Financial Freedom Too!

Democracy rests on four main pillars — legislature, executive, judiciary, and the press. Just like the other powers, the media is an important part of democracy. Without the media, democracy is incomplete. Therefore, the state must work to strengthen and develop all these powers, even financially.

Recent information released by the President’s Office resulted in a heated debate among the public, especially among political activists. The information disclosed details of how the state budget had provided funds to the media in order to promote the government. Some described this as misusing state funds. According to others, it is a waste to spend from the state budget on media. There are also those who argued that this was not done on an equal or two-way basis.

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However, utilizing state funds for the media is not new. Previous administrations had also provided funds to media outlets in order to disseminate news and inform the public. In the form of license fees collected from government budget allocations, public funding for state-administered broadcasters, including state-owned media or public service TV and radio channels, is used by governments to ensure that these broadcasters follow the government agenda.

Over MVR 100 million is currently allocated in the state budget for the media every year. The difference is that it is only spent on media outlets run by the state media company. According to some, this is a unjustifiably huge expenditure that has not yielded results or is not matched by the work done. Some experts believe that the money is better spent in a way that includes and benefits all media outlets.

After the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, media outlets, like other sectors of the economy, were badly hit. To provide relief, the current administration issued loans to all businesses, including the media. However, if a state-guaranteed budget allocates part of the media’s expenses, the freedom of media will greatly increase.

Media in democracy should be the fourth force, not only to take action but to also hold the state accountable. Responsible journalism and transparent governing should go hand in hand, and the expansion of media freedom is necessary to promote social development.

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