The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has condemned the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for asking private television stations not to broadcast any content from Friday’s ‘Defend Islam’ protest that could disrupt national security and “encourage the toppling of the lawfully-formed government.”
Privately-owned media outlets, DhiTV and Villa TV, broadcast live coverage of the eight-hour long protest organised by a coalition of NGOs and seven opposition parties.
In a statement yesterday, MJA contended that the letter sent to the television stations, signed by Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, amounted to “undue influence” and “threats” to free media, noting that regulating the media was the role of the Media Council and Broadcasting Commission.
MJA claimed that MNDF was politically pressured to send the letters, observing that the directive was sent before the protest had started.
“The announcement was very irresponsible and we call on MNDF to apologise,” MJA said in the statement.
The journalist association also strongly criticised state broadcaster Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) for “biased coverage” of Friday’s opposition and ruling party protests.
In addition to repeated runs of President Mohamed Nasheed’s speech at the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) rally in support of ‘moderate Islam,’ the state broadcaster also showed live telecast of an impromptu rally held at the MDP Haruge facility on Friday night.
“MNBC is run by state money and transmitting biased video footage and images is something that Maldives Broadcasting Commission should investigate,” the MJA said, reiterating its call for the government to transfer assets of MNBC to MBC, which was formed by an Act of parliament.
Broadcasting Commission Chair Badr Naseer meanwhile told local media that threats to the media from the military was “not something that we should see in a society maturing for democracy.”
MNDF Spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem told Minivan News that the army did not wish to comment on the MJA statement.
“That day we issued the statement because we found that it was necessary given the situation at that time,” he said.