Decision to halt live programme not politically motivated, state broadcaster claims

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) Mohamed ‘Mondhu’ Asif has said that yesterday’s decision (December 19) to cease transmission of the live show ‘Thafaas’ was not politically motivated.

Speaking to Minivan News Today, Asif dismissed allegations circulating on social media alleging that the programme was halted following a direct order from Dr President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, claiming the decision was taken over a violation of “editorial policy”.

“I can confirm you that no order was sent from either President Waheed or any governmental authority. We are now an independent television station as under the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation Act,” he said.

Asif admitted that the programme had been halted during a live telecast, but claimed the decision was made over concerns that the show’s content had violated the station’s editorial policy.

“We had done that previously as well. As a principle, in a live television programme, if [the show’s content] violates the editorial policy set out by the company, we would usually halt the telecast of that programme,” he explained.

Asked if any action may be taken against members of staff over the issue, Asif explained that TVM had only decided to halt the yesterday’s live broadcast at present. He added that TVM management would need to assess in future how guests were briefed over what they could and could not speak about on the state broadcaster.

During the terminated broadcast, Feydhoo constituency MP Alhan Fahmy and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member and a local lawyer Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed had been invited to reportedly discuss current parliamentary issues.

Twitter response

Despite Asif’s claims that the show was taken off air in line with concerns over editorial policy, the host of the ‘Thafaas’ show, Ali Shamin, yesterday used his personal twitter account tweeted to claim – “I’m done with this, it’s all politics,”.

One of the guests, MP Alhan Fahmy responded to the tweet urging Shamin to “make it clear” for the public about what happened.

“[Please] make it clear to the public. [People] need to know what happened! [Don’t] worry about the job,” read MP Fahmy’s twitter response to Shamin’s tweet.

Speaking to Minivan News, Communications and Advocacy Manager of local NGO Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed Ibrahim said that the NGO had noticed that “an incumbent government had always had the opportunity to unduly influence the content of the state media [in the country]”.

Transparency Maldives had previously conducted a media monitoring programme back in 2011.

“Perhaps the new legislation may mean state influence may not be as extreme as was the case prior to the ratification of the legislation, but the ground reality is that an incumbent government has always had the opportunity to unduly influence the content of the state media,” Rasheed suggested.

When contacted by Minivan News today MP Alhan Fahmy said that he was very busy and had already given information about the matter to private broadcaster Raajje TV.

The MBC has been previously involved in a protracted legal battle against former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration over whether the executive – via the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) – or parliament should have responsibility for overseeing state media.

The MNBC was established by Nasheed to run the state media, removing its employees from the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). In 2010, the then-opposition majority parliament created MBC and demanded the transfer of MNBC’s assets to the new body, which Nasheed’s government refused to do, alleging political partiality on behalf of the MBC board.

Following the controversial transfer of power that saw President Mohamed Waheed Hassan take office in February, MBC was granted control of the state broadcaster.  On February 7, the channel – then called MNBC one – was renamed TVM.

Meanwhile, fellow state broadcaster Raajje Radio was re-branded as Voice of Maldives. TVM and Voice of Maldives were used as the names for the two channels during the autocratic 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.