The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has voted to submit a case against the President’s Office to “create a free media” in light of the discriminatory treatment of Raajje TV.
The President’s Office is violating equal rights by not inviting the opposition-aligned TV station Raajje TV to events and has not been adhering to the MMC’s requests that it give equal opportunities to all media, the MMC Secretariat told Minivan News (April 9).
The case will be submitted to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office April 10.
“MMC members have voted to submit the case. Members have a strong feeling that it is a necessary step to take in order to create a free media in the Maldives,” said the MMC Secretariat.
The MMC has been very active the past two months trying to solve these problems and is now sending the case to the PG, Raajje TV Deputy Chief Executive Officer Abdulla Yamin told Minivan News.
The President’s Office has not been inviting Raajje TV to press conferences, has denied reporters entry press events in the President’s Office, and has not sent the channel any government press statements, Yamin claimed.
The President’s Office also asked government ministries and state-owned companies not to give information to Raajje TV and for these companies to stop providing private sponsorship to the media outlet.
Yamin said that they had observed this treatment was particular only to their channel.
“The President’s Office said they have not invited us because it is their privilege to decide whether to invite Raajje TV or not,” said Yamin.
“We are talking about rights granted in the constitution, not a privilege. There must be a situation [in the Maldives] where independent media can run.
“Article 28 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of the press and article 29 assures the right to freedom of information,” Yamin declared.
Yamin explained that the MCC had acted as a mediator to try and resolve the lack of cooperation shown by the President’s Office to Raajje TV.
“The President’s Office said if we do certain things they will cooperate. However, then the President’s Office is forcing their influence on our editorial policy,” said Yamin.
“We are not going to negotiate our constitutionally guaranteed right to information,” he added.
Ongoing government discrimination
Raajje TV filed a case against the President’s Office in the Civil Court in September 2012, complaining that the station had been boycotted from official events. Yamin expects the civil court to issue their verdict later this week.
Raajje TV also submitted a case to the parliamentary committee on government accountability regarding the president’s office discriminating against the media outlet. Parliament invited the president’s office to attend the committee twice, but never received a response, according to Yamin.
Additionally, Raajje TV lodged a complaint against the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) with the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), alleging it was “using its power to give benefits” to other TV channels by providing them funding.
The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) was contacted by the ACC regarding the matter, but did not respond, according to Yamin.
“The MBC have not done anything regarding our right to information. They should be working on these issues to make sure rights are assured,” said Yamin.
Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed previously named Raajje TV as an “enemy of state” in a press conference held in July, the same day on which the Maldives Police Services publicly stated its refusal to provide cooperation or protection to the channel.
Raajje TV also filed a case against the Maldives Police Services in September 2012 over their decision to deny cooperation or protection to the channel. In February 2013, the Civil Court ruled that the decision by the Maldives Police Service to cease cooperating with Raajje TV was unconstitutional.
Dismissing the police argument that it had the sole discretion to decide who to invite to press conferences and functions, the court stated that the action more resembled a deliberate attempt to limit the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of media and the right to information.
Raajje TV believes this verdict will apply to the President’s Office as well.
“If the court is fair and balanced a similar verdict will come. I believe the court won’t be that corrupt because the constitution and laws are clear. It’s written in black and white,” Yamin said.
Raajje TV is one of the five private broadcasters in the country and is the only television station aligned with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The TV station has come under substantial pressure and criticism from groups including the government and political parties aligned with it.
RaajjeTV has been the subject of continuous verbal attacks by the state following the transfer of power in February.
In early August 2012, Raajje TV’s control room was sabotaged by intruders.
Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders at the time condemned this attack, stating “This targeted and well-prepared operation was the foreseeable culmination of the new government’s escalating verbal attacks on Raajje TV. How the authorities respond will be seen as a test of their commitment to media pluralism.”
The President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were not responding to calls at time of press.