The Maldives Police Services was negligent in protecting opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV from an arson attack that destroyed the station’s headquarters on October 7, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has said.
In a report released today, the PIC has recommended that the Prosecutor General file criminal charges against two unnamed officers – the Inspector of Police and the Shift In Charge (Shift IC) – who were on duty at the Galholhu Police Station on the night of the attack.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had issued a statement on the day of attack condemning the police’s failure to protect the station.
“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” RSF said.
Raajje TV had received credible information of an impending attack, and sent a letter asking for police protection, the report noted.
Senior police officers, on the orders of then Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, instructed the inspector of police in charge of the Galholhu Police Station to maintain a presence at the Raajje TV offices.
Further, upon realising there weren’t enough police officers to maintain static duty, a superior instructed the inspector of police to get additional officers from the operational duty department to carry out the task.
The inspector of police delegated the task to the shift IC, and falsely informed his superiors that police officers were on static duty at Raajje TV headquarters without checking to see if his orders were actually followed through, the report said.
Moreover, the Inspector of Police had not even asked the CCTV Command Center to aim the CCTV cameras at the Raajje TV building despite knowing the Maldives Police Services did not have enough officers to patrol the area that night.
The shift IC had “not done anything to find additional police officers to oversee security at Raajje TV,” the report stated. Moreover, the Shift IC had not informed any police officers patrolling Malé City that night of the possible attack on Raajje TV.
The PIC undertook the investigation on the Maldives Media Council’s request.
Meanwhile, the police say they have arrested eight adults and one minor for suspected involvement in the attack. Mohamed Meeaadh, 35 years, was arrested on December 2 after a manhunt.
The police have urged the public to forward any information regarding the attack and have pledged to provide protection to informers.
CCTV footage of the attack shows six masked men armed with machetes and iron rods breaking through a reinforced steel grill and a second wooden door before dousing the station’s control room and lobby with petrol. The ensuing fire destroyed the station’s offices, control room, computer system, and broadcasting and transmission equipment.
The station returned to air the same day with donated equipment.
Further footage shows an additional six masked men breaking and entering the building located next to the BKT Builing where Raajje TV’s offices are located. Raajje TV has said it believes the six men were attempting to find the station’s second studios.