Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released a statement further criticising the “persecution” of Raajje TV, after the recent initiation of a Supreme Court ordered investigation into its content.
The station is currently under investigation by police after the court ordered they look into an October 19 news report which is alleged to have defamed the institution.
“Not only is the accusation spurious but the investigation has been assigned to the police, which has no competence in such a matter,” RSF said.
“As the Maldives Media Council, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission [MBC] and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party have all said, such an investigation is the Council’s responsibility.”
Raajje TV CEO Yamin Rasheed told Minivan News yesterday that, whilst both himself and the station’s News Head Asward Ibrahim had been summoned to police, he was only only willing to cooperate with the MBC.
“I won’t co-operate with police, but if the police and broadcasting commission get together and find a solution, I am willing to cooperate – if the broadcasting commission direct us to do so,” said Yamin.
Yesterday’s RSF statement sought to remind the Maldives police of its duty to guarantee freedom of information and media independence.
“The police should concentrate on identifying and arresting the perpetrators and instigators of the arson attack that gutted the station’s premises on 7 October instead of worrying about the quality of its programmes,” read the RSF statement.
The day after the attack, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz suggested that protests conducted nearby by the Maldivian Democratic Party – with whom Raajje TV is aligned – had diverted police resources on the night of the attack, before arguing that Raajje TV staff had been negligent in not protecting the premises.
Police have today revealed that seven men and one minor have been arrested in relation to the attack.
“This unconstitutional order follows a failure on the part of the police to protect Raajje TV’s headquarters although they had been informed about the threats it had received, and it shows that the authorities are endorsing an offensive designed to silence Raajje TV by any means necessary,” read this week’s RSF statement.
After receiving fresh threats against its premises this week, Raajje TV has been advised by police to hire additional private security.
“The Police also responded to RaajjeTV’s request of Police security stating that there are difficulties in placing Officers for security but the building and the area will be specially patrolled,” read a police statement yesterday.
Since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, Raajje TV has faced increasing threats. In July 2012, the police and the President’s Office had said it would not cooperate with the TV station, blocking the station from President’s Office’s press conferences and police protection at protests.
In August 2012, critical cables in the station’s control room were cut, terminating the station’s broadcast. Several Raajje TV journalists have also reported arbitrary arrests and assaults.
In February 2013, men wielding iron rods on motorbikes assaulted Asward leaving him with near near-fatal head injuries.
“The same political alliance is behind the fresh threat, which says Raajje TV should be gone from the scene to meet their political needs,” Yamin told Minivan News this week.
The Maldives plummeted to 103rd in the RSF Press Freedom Index this year – a fall of 30 places and a return to pre-2008 levels.