The rising trend of death threats being sent via telecommunications devices has prompted the Communication Authority of the Maldives (CAM) to request police investigate and take action against offenders.
CAM’s statement comes a day after ongoing death threats received by the Elections Commission (EC)’s permanent staff and polling station officials prompted the commission to file a report with the Maldives Police Service (MPS).
CAM highlighted that intimidating threats and death threats are criminal offences and the institution called on all Maldivians to refrain from using telecommunications devices to commit such criminal acts.
The government agency called on everyone receiving threats to report the incident(s) to police.
CAM also emphasized that offenders would have their telecommunications services terminated without further notice.
Media council “lost faith” in broadcasting commission
Meanwhile, the Maldives Media Council (MMC) will file a no-confidence motion against Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) members via Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, reported local media.
MMC believes the broadcasting commission has failed to fulfill its mandate to create a healthy broadcast media environment, instead creating fear and discomfort, is unable to uniformly treat media agencies equitably, and is unable to fulfil the Broadcasting Act’s mandates.
The media council has also called on MBC to “stop any action that might affect freedom of media” including creating fear and threatening media agencies.
“MBC was threatening media organizations [and] was failing to establish equality in implementing regulations…and therefore MMC has lost faith in the current members of MBC,” MMC President Husham Mohamed told local media.
MMC decided to file the case in Parliament after MBC issued a “warning” on Friday night (September 27), saying that broadcasting licenses would be revoked from any outlet transmitting content which “threatens national security”, Husham explained.
MBC said it would file legal proceedings against any media organisation it believed had broadcast such materials in violation of the Broadcasting Act.
Another factor prompting the MMC to take action against the broadcasting commission was MBC’s call on Thursday (September 26) that broadcasters to “refrain from airing photos of members of independent institutions – Supreme Court judges and Elections Commission members – in a derogatory manner which could jeopardize national harmony, until the Commission concludes adjudication of the related complaints”.
Seven of 11 MMC members voted in favor of the action against MBC members during the extra-ordinary meeting held on Saturday (September 28).
Last week the Broadcasting Commission ruled that the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s televising of the Jamiyyathul Salaf’ ‘Al Andhalus’ preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim did not violate any regulations.
The decision came after the Broadcasting Corporation’s chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik along with MBC members were summoned before Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, following complaints by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs that the sermon infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.
MMC Elections Commission complaint
The MMC has also called on the Elections Commission to “refrain from discriminating between media organizations when sharing information regarding the presidential elections”.
“I haven’t heard that complaint [officially from the Maldives Media Council],” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News yesterday (September 29).
“I have respected calls from various media [outlets, however] what I say is not properly addressed in reports, so I’m private as possible,” Thowfeek explained. “I give interviews to people I can trust to write what I say [accurately].”
“Also it depends on the time I have, [for example] if I’m in a meeting I can’t speak to anyone, but once I have free time I do,” he continued.
“If I believe the journalist will give [my] message accurately then I will give [that person] reports,” he emphasised.
MBC recently launched an investigation into Villa TV (VTV) – owned by resort tycoon, former Judicial Services Commission member, and Jumhooree Party Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim – broadcasting unsubstantiated content to incite hatred against the Elections Commission in violation of the broadcasting code of practice.
Local media broadcasting unsubstantiated information about the Elections Commission and electoral process catalyzed unrest throughout the Maldives.
Confusion over the presidential election’s first round voting figures was created by local media reports not matching those of the EC during counting, with sluggish EC figures supplemented by differing poll results, depending on the outlet chosen.
Inaccurate local media reporting was also highlighted as a problem by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik during an press conference held today (September 30).
“My comments made in public on Friday have been changed a lot [in local media reports],” said Manik.
“I want all Maldivians to know this. I work against brutality. I specifically said if any of the police officers here hit me, I will tell my wife to go and tell his wife not to brutalize us,” he emphasised.
Police are currently investigating Manik for threatening police and their families.
Meanwhile, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has ruled that it had not come across any substantial evidence supporting the claims of Manik being attacked by Corporal Mohamed Atheef during the brutal police crackdown on February 8, 2012.
UN human rights encouragement
In light of these local media issues, the Maldives’ United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office has encouraged journalists to leverage the UN human rights system to collectively advocate for freedom of opinion and expression to be upheld.
“As media professionals, I would encourage you to build your awareness and knowledge of international human rights standards, and reflect on how you could use the UN human rights system to, especially collectively, advocate for the respect and protection of freedom of opinion and expression in the Maldives, including the protection of journalists,” said UN Human Rights Adviser Safir Syed.
“I cannot emphasise enough that it really is in your interests,” he added.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on freedom of opinion and expression was attached to an email sent to various local media outlets yesterday (September 29).
“A free, uncensored and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other Covenant rights. It constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society,” Syed quoted from the General Comment document.