The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has declared it will sue Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz for withholding its annual budget approved by the parliament for the year 2011.
The parliament-created MBC and the 100 percent government corporation the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) 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. 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) has waded into the debate at the behest of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), in support of MBC and an independent state broadcaster.
In a statement issued yesterday the MBC said that the corporation had been unable to pay rent for its office building as well as other bills, and had been fined as a consequence.
“MBC decided to sue the Finance Minister after informing the ministry about all these issues and repeatedly seeking to solve them, but the ministry has failed to explain why the budget was withheld,’’ the statement read. ‘’The MBC has been unable to find a solution to this through the parliament and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC).’’
The MBC said the court was the last resort after exhausting all other avenues.
Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz told Minivan News that he did not wish to comment on the matter.
The MBC was formed by a law enacted by the parliament, which attempted to force a transfer of MNBC’s assets to the new corporation.
The MBC won its first suit against the government on June 12, with the Civil Court ordering that all the assets and staff including the land of MNBC was to be be transferred to MBC within 20 days.
However, the government claimed that the MNBC was a private TV station and that as long as the MNBC board opposed the transfer of assets and staff it would be violation of the corporation’s rights.
Now the government has appealed the Civil Court’s ruling in High Court on July 6, which ordered the Civil Court’s decision be delayed pending a final ruling.
Meanwhile Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said last week that staff at the former Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VoM) could not work with the parliament-approved MBC board.
Responding to a question by a journalist at a forum organised by the Maldives Media Council (MMC) on July 25, Nasheed explained that the MBC Act was intended to transform the corporatised state media into a public broadcaster but the board voted through by opposition MPs was engaged in “political football.”
“Everything went right, but because of those who were chosen for the director’s board, the whole thing turned into political football,” MP Nasheed said.