The High Court issued an injunction on Sunday forbidding the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) from selling, transferring or destroying any state media assets.
According to the injunction, MNBC cannot take any action that violates the Civil Court’s ruling in May that the station was to transfer all state media assets to the parliament-created Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). MNBC appealed against the Civil Court ruling in the High Court. That decision is still pending.
This week’s court’s decision came following a case filed by MBC to halt alleged misuse of state media assets by the MNBC board, and prevent the company from laying off workers before the final verdict on the transfer of assets.
MNBC Chairman Madulu Mohamed Waheed told local media outlet Sun that MNBC’s had decided to close seven media centres based in different atolls, and sent notice of dismissal to staff employed at those stations. Affected employees would receive three months’ salary as a redundancy package, he said, but did not state the reason for the decision.
MNBC and MBC have been engaged in a long-running tug-of-war for control of the assets of the state broadcaster, formerly Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VoM).
The government contends that the MBC board is stacked with opposition supporters and that its attempt to gain control of MNBC is effectively a media coup, while MNBC has been criticised for favouring the ruling party.
MNBC’s proponents claim that given the opposition’s influence over private broadcast media the consolidation of media ownership in the hands of a few opposition-leaning MPs, the government has no alternative.
Even the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) waded into the debate at the behest of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), in support of MBC and an independent state broadcaster.