Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has asked the Maldives Police Services and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) to investigate opposition-aligned Raajje TV over the station’s reporting of 57 leaked text messages allegedly received to Nazim’s cell phone during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
In a press statement posted on social media twitter, Nazim said Rajje TV had violated Article 24 of the Constitution which guarantees right to privacy, and contravened the Article 37 of the Broadcasting Act which prohibits use of illegally recorded information and defamation.
The text messages received to Nazim’s phone appear to offer congratulations from security forces, family members, prominent businesses including tourism tycoon Ahmed Nazeer of Crown Company Pvt Ltd, and prominent politicians including Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer.
“Rajje TV’s actions contravene the Constitution and laws of the Maldives, as well as broadcasting ethics. Hence, I have asked the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and Maldives Police Services to investigate the matter,” Nazim said.
However, Raajje TV News Head Asward Ibrahim Waheed said the station was not responsible for the leaked text messages. Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had publicised the text messages at a rally held at its protest camp at Usfasgandu on Sunday night, and Raajje TV had broadcast live coverage of the event, Waheed said.
“Numerous print media outlets have also written articles on these text messages. Therefore, Nazim’s targeting of Raajje TV on this matter again illustrates the Maldivian security forces’ attempt to gag free media,” Waheed said.
The MDP contends former President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed through a coup d’état, orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by resort interests, and carried out by mutinous elements of the police and military.
Nazim, a colonel during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration, was a central figure in Nasheed’s downfall. Video footage on February 7 shows the retired colonel addressing police and military officers gathered in Republican Square, saying he had delivered an ultimatum on their behalf demanding Nasheed’s resignation. New President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan appointed Nazim as Defense Minister the next day.
MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said the text messages were evidence that the “coup was pre-planned and executed to stakeholders’ satisfaction.”
Although Nazim has asked the police and MBC to investigate Raajje TV, he told local media today that he still could not comment on the authenticity of the text messages.
Controversial text messages
According to the MDP publicized document, Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid sent a message to Nazim at 1:42 pm stating “Need to talk urgently.”
Deputy Leader of PPM Umar Naseer at 2:51 pm allegedly says: “Extremely grateful for your service in saving this country and its religion, thank you, Umar Naseer.”
Three phone numbers registered with the Crown Company Pvt. Ltd also offered congratulations to Nazim. Tourism Tycoon Ahmed Nazeer allegedly said at 1:28 pm: “Congratulations. Once a soldier, always a soldier. Keep up the good work, but don’t go overboard. Thanks and regards, Nazeer.”
A Malaysian number which the MDP claims belongs to retired MNDF Lieutenant General Anbaree Abdul Sattar at 4:39 pm said: “Heartfelt congratulations. I pray Allah gives you the patience and wisdom as you proceed to be magnanimous and be mindful of the vow you have made to uphold the constitution and the constitution of the Maldives, Anbaree.” Anbaree had also served as former President and ruler of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Ambassador to India.
Two text messages also appear to discuss details of then VP’s movements and logistics for a press conference. A number registered with the MNDF at 2:51 pm says: “Sir vp getting ready to move to majlis,” while a man identifying himself as Colonel Adurey at 3:21 pm asks when media briefing should be scheduled.
Several security forces personnel also allegedly sent text messages to Nazim thanking and congratulating him for his role in Nasheed’s resignation.
A text message from retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Abdul Shakoor Abdulla said: “Allah Akbar Allah Akbar Akbar Alh’amdhu Lillah. Congratulations! Abdul Shakoor Abdulla Rtd. Dy Com of Police,” whilst a number registered with Lieutenant Colonel Zakariyya Mansoor reportedly sent a text message saying, “Congratulations, Mansoor.”
Another text message from a man identifying himself as “Riya” from an unlisted number said: “Moosa Jaleel’s 15 year savage reign is now over. I was one of those forced to resign. I am really proud to say I’m done STF with you in same platoon. Congratulations, Riya, five rises.” Moosa Jaleel was Chief of the Defense Forces under Nasheed. He resigned shortly after President Waheed took his oath of office.
Attacks on Raajje TV
The government has stepped up verbal attacks on Raajje TV, following the murder of Lance Corporal Adam Haleem on Monday, claiming the station incites hatred and violence against security forces by broadcasting “baseless allegations” regarding police brutality and the police’s role in the controversial transfer of power on February 7. The police have said it will no longer cooperate with or provide protection to Raajje TV journalists.
Home Minister Mohamed Jameel, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor have said Rajje TV must bear responsibility for the murder Haleem, and have pledged to take legal action against the station.
Raajje TV has previously accused the Maldives security forces of regularly targeting, attacking, threatening and harassing the station’s journalists. In a July 10 statement, Raajje TV said: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment has been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”