The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has ordered private broadcasters Raajje TV and Villa TV (VTV) to apologise for defamatory material and ordered the stations to broadcast live events with a delay to minimise future defamation.
The broadcast media regulator said Raajje TV had aired an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meeting on September 23, 2013, in which an MDP member had defamed the Supreme Court bench.
VTV is said to have aired material defamatory to MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, MP Rozaina Adam, and Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek during its daily talk show ‘Fasmanzaru’ on September 27, 2013.
MBC has ordered Rajje TV and VTV to broadcast an apology and to allow the wronged party to speak in their defense by January 31. Furthermore, VTV has been ordered to broadcast ‘Fasmanzaru’ with a broadcast delay and Raajje TV has been ordered to broadcast all political events with a broadcast delay.
Speaking to Minivan News, VTV CEO Ibrahim Khaleel said the MBC’s decision “limited the freedom of the press”, and that the station did not see any reason to air an apology.
According to Khaleel, MBC ordered VTV to apologise for comments made on air by MP Ilham Ahmed and MP ‘Redwave’ Ahmed Saleem.
“The constitution guarantees freedom of expression within the tenets of Islam and we, as a TV station, gave airtime to politicians to express their opinions. No one has said anything contrary to a tenet of Islam,” Khaleel argued.
If any party feels they have been wronged, then the laws allow them to pursue defamation charges or to seek compensation through other means, he added.
Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Yamin Rasheed also condemned the MBC’s decision as “discriminatory”.
“It is not fair when MBC only orders specific TV channels to air specific programmes or events with a delay,” Yamin said arguing that other broadcasters must also be ordered to broadcast all political events with a delay.
Yamin also expressed concern over MBC ordering the station to air an apology over an MDP MP’s comments. However, he said Raajje TV would broadcast an apology and would allow the Supreme Court judges an hour to speak in their defense.
MBC has previously ordered Raajje TV, Dhi TV, and Dhi FM to apologise for defamatory material.
Raajje TV was ordered to apologise in December 2013 for airing a report defaming the Supreme Court, but MBC said the report does not constitute a national security threat as alleged by the apex court.
Furthermore, in July 2012, MBC ordered Raajje TV to apologise for airing a report alleging that a policeman had stolen petrol from a motorbike, and in August 2012 the station was ordered to issue an apology on three consecutive nights for publicising Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim’s text messages
In March 2012, Dhi FM was similarly reprimanded for content aired following the overthrow of Nasheed’s administration on February 8, 2012.