Local private news channel RaajjeTV has filed a case against the President’s Office in the Civil Court, complaining that the station had been boycotted from official events.
Deputy CEO of RaajjeTV, Yamin Rasheed, told Minivan News “This whole issue began with the government’s Media Secretary Masood Imad excluding RaajjeTV in all invitations to media to cover their press events.”
“Initially, Abbas Adil Riza (President’s Office Spokesperson) held a different opinion. But then it became a norm for the government to block us from events, even refusing access and turning us away when we took the initiative to find out about events and attempt to cover them with or without invitation.”
Yamin said that the channel had repeatedly been denied entry to press events in the President’s Office and were not sent any of the government press statements. He said that they had observed this treatment was particular only to their channel.
“What is most worrying to us is that this behaviour is setting a precedent where state bodies are infringing upon media’s right to information. We are being deprived of constitutional rights. This goes against principles of maintaining equitability among media organisations,” Yamin detailed their concerns.
Vice President of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Mohamed Shaheeb told Minivan News today that the commission had not discussed this issue yet.
“We haven’t even received any complaints regarding the President’s Office denying access to a particular media outlet,” Shaheeb said.
Although MBC denies having received complaints, Chairperson of RaajjeTV Akram Kamaluddeen has confirmed that complaints have been lodged.
“We have officially written to MBC about all of these issues, including the President’s Office blocking access to events. We haven’t received a response yet.”
President of the Maldives Journalists’ Association Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir has commended the efforts by Raajje TV to protect their rights.
“I support the channel’s actions to protect their constitutional rights. Even if the government has complaints about the channel’s broadcasting conduct, there is a procedure through which this can be professionally settled. I feel that this could have been settled through dialogue, otherwise the government could have lodged complaints with relevant commissions,” Zahir said to Minivan News today.
MJA has last month released a statement stating that it would neither encourage nor accept the boycotting of any media institution by either state bodies or political parties.
Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has previously named Raajje TV as ‘enemies 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 has also filed a case against the Maldives Police Services earlier this month over their decision to deny cooperation or protection to the channel.
Rasheed told Minivan that they had also lodged complaints with the Anti-Corruption Commission.
“With regard to this issue, we have lodged a complaint against President’s Office Media Officer Nihla Abdul Sattar with the ACC. We’ve previously filed two other cases at the commission. One of this was against the MPS as an institution. The other was against the Media Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef. We believe he is abusing the powers entrusted to him for his role as media spokesperson to benefit certain media outlets, while deliberately blocking or sidelining others,” Yamin told Minivan News today.
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.”
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls at the time of press.