Politicians, gangs and religious extremists threaten media freedom

Maldivian journalists have reported threats from political parties, gangs, religious extremists, parliamentarians and the government.

A landmark “Threat Analysis Report” by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) found that 84 percent of journalists surveyed reported being threatened at least once, while five percent reported being threatened on a daily basis.

Journalists identified political parties to be the top source of threat. Gangs, religious extremists and parliament placed second while the government was rated third.

The MBC also unveiled a “Broadcast Content and Complaints During Presidential Election 2013” on Wednesday which found former President Mohamed Nasheed received the most negative coverage of any of the presidential candidates across all stations except opposition aligned broadcaster Raajje TV.


The Threat Analysis Report is aimed at identifying threats to journalism and media freedom in the Maldives between 2011 and 2013.

Of the journalists surveyed, 29 percent said they felt the threats were serious and could threaten their lives while 27 percent said they were hesitant to report due to threats.

Over 30 percent said they were reluctant to report on gang activity.

Threats came in various forms, with 20 percent delivered in person, 18 percent via social media and 15 percent through telephone calls. Journalists also reported being stalked and family members being intimidated.

However, a significant percentage of the journalists threatened (43 percent) did not report threats to the authorities.

Television stations meanwhile reported being vandalized. These include an arson attack that destroyed Raajje TV offices in October 2013 and an attack on Villa TV in March 2012. TV stations have reported these cases, but said they are not happy with police progress in investigating cases.

The TV stations have expressed concern that gangs and religious extremists may step up the scale and seriousness of attacks in the future.

Broadcast media told the MBC that media threats are caused due to attempts by political forces to control the media and failure by journalists to practice ethical journalism in a turbulent political environment.

Police refusal to support and cooperate with media outlets as well as lack of tolerance for different views were also identified as underlying reasons for threats against the press.

Access to information

All TV stations and 72 percent of journalists reported difficulties in obtaining information from the government and other state institutions.

Access to information is rated as the second biggest obstacle to free media in the Maldives. The top obstacle is political influence while discrimination in providing information is rated third.

The management of TV stations said stations are self-sustainable and said they do not believe their content is influenced by financiers.

However, they told the MBC that journalists do not practice fair, responsible and ethical journalism in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, 54 percent of journalists said their stations allowed practice of free, fair, responsible and ethical journalism. But 69 percent acknowledged presence of “activist journalists” in the Maldivian media.

Only four percent of journalists said there was no editorial independence at the stations they worked at.

Presidential election content

The MBC monitored prime time content of nine television stations before the first round of presidential elections – between August 7 and September 6, 2013 – to compile the report on Broadcast Content and Complaints During Presidential Election 2013.

According to the report President Nasheed received the least (8.69 percent) coverage on public broadcasting channel Television Maldives (TVM). Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim (18 percent) gained the most coverage on TVM  followed by current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom (16 percent).

Each of the commercial channels monitored gave a significantly large percentage of positive coverage for a single presidential candidate.

The only exception to this was Jazeera channel which divided coverage more equally compared to other channels but favored Nasheed by approximately five percent, the MBC said.

The rest of the channels were divided among the candidates as follows; former President Dr. Mohamed Waheed dominated DhiTV, DhiFM and Channel One, Gasim dominated Villa TV (VTV) which he owns, President Yameen dominated Channel 13 and SunTV Plus, while President Nasheed dominated RaajjeTV.


Raajje TV wins court battle against President’s Office over discriminatory treatment

The Civil Court has today ruled in favour of private broadcaster Raajje TV in its lawsuit against the President’s Office for barring the opposition-aligned television station from President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s press conferences and functions.

“[The court] orders the President’s Office not to discriminate against Raajje TV in providing opportunity to cover functions, events and press conferences,” reads the judgment (Dhivehi).

Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain noted that the President’s Office’s decision to not cooperate with Raajje TV was proven at court by its own admission.

Summoned by parliament’s Government Oversight Committee last week following a complaint filed by Raajje TV, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad claimed that Raajje TV was not invited to press conferences because the station did not fit criteria or standards of reporting set out by the President’s Office.

According to Masood, the policy of the President’s Office was to invite “responsible and experienced” media outlets, which include private broadcasters DhiTV and VTV, state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM), newspapers Haveeru and Miadhu, as well as internet publications Sun Online and Minivan News.

Meanwhile, followings its own inquiry into the matter, the Maldives Media Council (MMC) asked the Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office to press charges against the President’s Office over what it found to be discriminatory treatment.

The non-cooperation by the President’s Office with Raajjee TV have also been met with condemnation from both international and local NGOs, including the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA).

At the Civil Court trial, the President’s Office, represented by the attorney general, alleged that Raajje TV had attempted to capture video footage of the premises, disrupting internal security at the office.

However, the judge dismissed the claim on the grounds that the President’s Office had the right to file a complaint at the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) over the alleged violation of broadcasting rules.

As the President’s Office was an institution that “served the people,” the judge ruled that the it should also comply with the Maldivian constitution, which guarantees equal treatment and administrative fairness.

Press freedom and freedom of expression were also protected as fundamental rights in the constitution, the judge noted.

Speaking to Minivan News, Chairman of Raajje TV Akram Kamaaluddeen said today’s verdict was a huge success for Raajje TV well as for the Maldivian media.

“Today, the court has guaranteed that no one can meddle with the rights vested in the constitution and that no one can discriminate the media,” he said.

Akram added that he expected Raajje TV to be invited to future press conferences and events at the President’s Office.

Invitation only

Despite the Civil Court judgment, Masood Imad denied that the government failed to cooperate with Raajje TV.

“We talk to them and provide them with answers to their queries. In future too, we will maintain our position of cooperation,” he told Minivan News.

Masood added that he has been in touch with officials at Raajje TV today and invited them for a meeting at the President’s Office tomorrow (April 15)  to “talk out” any differences.

Akram said that he had not been aware of any communication with the President’s Office since the court ruling at time of press.

The Civil Court previously ruled that a similar decision taken by the Maldives Police Service to not cooperate with Raajje TV station was unconstitutional. The Civil Court Judge, issuing the ruling against the Police at the time, said that he believed such a decision was “extremely dangerous and significantly serious” and could result in “chaos and infringement of social harmony.”