Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has demanded private broadcaster Raajje TV apologise for reporting 57 leaked text messages allegedly received to Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s mobile phone during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
In a letter sent to the station yesterday, with MBC’s investigation report attached, the commission demanded that the station broadcast an apology statement from last night for three consecutive nights at prime time from 8:00pm to 10:00pm.
The commission contended that the opposition-aligned TV station violated the “code of practice” of broadcasting by airing the text messages.
Upon receiving the MBC letter, Raajje TV last night aired an apology statement “to respect the demands from “MBC to issue an “unconditional apology” following complaints of its alleged “publicising of text messages received to a man named Mohamed Nazim of M.Seenukarankaage on 22 July 2012, Raajje TV would like to apologise for this action.”
Contacted by Minivan News, Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Abdulla Yameen said that the station did not wish to comment on MBC’s decision
The MBC action followed a complaint filed by Defence Minister Nazim in June in the wake of the publication of the text messages.
In a press statement posted on social media twitter at the time, Nazim argued that Raajje TV had violated article 24 of the constitution, which guarantees right to privacy as well as article 37 of the Broadcasting Act, which prohibits the broadcast of illegally obtained information.
The text messages allegedly received on Nazim’s phone reportedly offered congratulations from officers of the security forces, family members and, prominent businesses figures, including tourism tycoon Ahmed Nazeer of Crown Company Pvt Ltd. Prominent politicians such as Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer were also reported to have sent the messages.
“Raajje TV’s actions contravene the constitution and laws of the Maldives, as well as broadcasting ethics. Hence, I have asked the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and Maldives Police Services to investigate the matter,” Nazim said at the time.
Raajje TV News Head ‘Asward’ Ibrahim Waheed responded to Nazim’s claims insisting that the station was not responsible for the leaked text messages.
Asward explained that the text messages were made public at an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally, which Raajje TV televised.
“Numerous print media outlets have also written articles on these text messages. Therefore, Nazim’s targeting of Raajje TV on this matter again illustrates the Maldivian security forces’ attempt to gag free media,” Waheed said.
Controversial text messages
According to the document publicised by the MDP, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid sent a message to Nazim at 1:42pm stating “Need to talk urgently.”
PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer at 2:51 pm allegedly says: “Extremely grateful for your service in saving this country and its religion, thank you, Umar Naseer.”
Three phone numbers registered with the Crown Company Pvt Ltd also offered congratulations to Nazim. Tourism Tycoon Ahmed Nazeer allegedly said at 1:28 pm: “Congratulations. Once a soldier, always a soldier. Keep up the good work, but don’t go overboard. Thanks and regards, Nazeer.”
A Malaysian number which the MDP claims belongs to retired MNDF Lieutenant General Anbaree Abdul Sattar at 4:39 pm said: “Heartfelt congratulations. I pray Allah gives you the patience and wisdom as you proceed to be magnanimous and be mindful of the vow you have made to uphold the constitution and the constitution of the Maldives, Anbaree.”
Anbaree had served as former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Ambassador to India.
Two text messages also appear to discuss details of the then VP’s movements and logistics for a press conference. A number registered with the MNDF at 2:51 pm says: “Sir VP getting ready to move to Majlis,” while a man identifying himself as Colonel Adurey at 3:21 pm asks when media briefing should be scheduled.
Several security forces personnel also allegedly sent text messages to Nazim thanking and congratulating him for his role in Nasheed’s resignation.
A text message from retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Abdul Shakoor Abdulla said: “Allah Akbar Allah Akbar Akbar Alh’amdhu Lillah. Congratulations! Abdul Shakoor Abdulla Rtd. Dy Com of Police,” whilst a number registered with Lieutenant Colonel Zakariyya Mansoor reportedly sent a text message saying, “Congratulations, Mansoor.”
Another text message from a man identifying himself as “Riya” from an unlisted number said: “Moosa Jaleel’s 15 year savage reign is now over. I was one of those forced to resign. I am really proud to say I’m done STF with you in same platoon. Congratulations, Riya, five rises.” Moosa Jaleel was Chief of the Defense Forces under Nasheed. He resigned shortly after President Waheed took his oath of office.
Attacks on Raajje TV
In recent weeks, the government has stepped up verbal attacks on Raajje TV claiming the station incites hatred and violence against security forces by broadcasting “baseless allegations” regarding alleged police brutality and the service’s role in the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
The police have said it will no longer cooperate with or provide protection to Raajje TV journalists.
The President’s Office meanwhile stopped inviting the station to press conferences and other events.
Raajje TV has since filed a lawsuit against the decision by the police to not cooperate with the station. Hearings have commenced on the case.
Home Minister Mohamed Jameel, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor have said Raajje TV must bear responsibility for the murder of a police officer last month, and have pledged to take legal action against the station.
Raajje TV has previously accused the Maldives security forces of regularly targeting, attacking, threatening and harassing the station’s journalists.
In a July 10 statement, Raajje TV said: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment has been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”