Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the sabotage of opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV that terminated the station’s broadcast, after critical cables in the control room were cut.
“This targeted and well-prepared operation was the foreseeable culmination of the new government’s escalating verbal attacks on Raajje TV,” said RSF in a statement. “How the authorities respond will be seen as a test of their commitment to media pluralism.”
The press freedom organisation noted that the “growing media polarisation between ’pro-Nasheed’ and ’pro-Hassan’ camps has reached a toxic level and the right to receive and impart news and information is the first victim.”
“Many journalists have been arrested, attacked or threatened in recent months during demonstrations organized by Nasheed’s supporters to press their call for early elections. While appealing to all sides to calm down and reflect on the role they should play in a democratic debate, Reporters Without Borders condemns these repeated attacks on journalists by the authorities,” RSF stated.
“The government and police have played a leading role in the deterioration of the situation. Instead of trying to create a healthy environment that would assist the development of a free and pluralistic press, they have exacerbated the rivalry and used the media for political ends.”
RSF called on authorities “to moderate their criticism of Raajje TV, to ensure that the sabotage of the station is fully and impartially investigated, and to make sure that journalists are not subjected to further attacks. At the same time, we urge Raajje TV’s journalists to make a clear distinction between their political involvement and their professional work.”
Cables in Raajje TV’s control room were cut early on the morning of August 7, after intruders shut down electricity to the building causing the station’s electronic locking system to fail.
“We suspect that either the culprit knows this place very well, or that this was done with the cooperation from a person who knew the place very well,” said the station’s Deputy CEO, Abdulla Yamin.
Following the incident, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz on twitter “[Condemned] the attack on Raajje TV. All resources will be used to investigate to find the perpetrator(s).”
Meanwhile, police also told local media that they would reconsider a decision not to cooperate with the station’s reporters, including denying them access to secure areas during protests, after urging from the Maldives Broadcasting Commission.
The Maldives is ranked 73rd out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, which was released before February’s events.
“The media situation has deteriorated dramatically since then,” the organisation observed.