Raajje TV destroyed in arson attack

Additional reporting by JJ Robinson

A group of masked men armed with machetes, iron rods and petrol set fire to opposition aligned TV station Raajje TV shortly before 4:45am today, destroying its offices and control room as well as cameras, computer systems, broadcasting and transmission equipment.

The attack comes days after Raajje TV broadcast a report titled “Forum 15” detailing a plan, including arson, to destroy the station.

According to Raajje TV’s Head of News, Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed, six men forcefully entered the seven story building after stabbing the security guard with a machete.

The guard has been hospitalised and is receiving care for two stab wounds to his back.

The men then damaged the elevator and cut off the building’s electricity. The group continued to break through a reinforced steel door to access station’s offices on the second floor of the building, before covering all equipment in the building with petrol and setting it alight.

A crew member from the airport ferry – docked opposite the building – said he witnessed a group of masked men leaving the building, and the bleeding security guard run to police officers on the corner of the block.

“We were docking at around 4:40 am when I saw about eight masked and gloved men leaving the building. They were wearing jeans and t-shirts. I saw the security guard run out, he had blood on his back,” he said.

“There were policemen on the corner, he ran to them and it looked like they did not help. I say this because he ran back to the building and then ran back to them when people gathered there started shouting,” he told Minivan News.

“At the time there was smoke coming from the offices. Many people there told me they called the police when they saw what was happening. But the police did not answer the phone. and only answered once the whole place was ablaze,” he said.

Station staff were unharmed, although the Maldives National Defense Forces’ (MNDF) Fire and Rescue Services said they had rescued one woman who was trapped on the terrace.

According to the MNDF, the fire was reported at 4:45 am and was put out at 7:00 am. A computer store on the ground floor was also completely destroyed in the blaze.

The station was destroyed on the same day as the Supreme Court’s much-anticipated ruling on whether to allow elections to go ahead.

Station had requested police protection

The station’s reporters had all gone home by 4:00am after providing live coverage of the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) ongoing protests against the indefinite suspension of elections by the country’s Supreme Court. Eyewitnesses had reported that the license plates of the arsonist’s motorbikes had been concealed, Asward said.

Raajje TV CEO Yamin Rasheed said the station had received reports at 8:00pm on the previous evening that it was in danger of being attacked that same evening, warnings which forwarded to police along with a written request for police protection.

“[The report] was very suspicious, and did not look like a joke. I wrote a letter to police asking for security and requested them to protect us from this attack. But there was no response,” he said.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed to Minivan News this morning that police had received Yamin’s letter “and took action by patrolling the area.”

Yamin said Raajje TV has extensive CCTV footage of the arson attack: “It will be very easy to investigate. But we’ve handed it over in past attacks and nothing has happened,” he said.

“We will resume our service as soon as possible. Our directors are very courageous and are willing to try again,” he added.

Vice President of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) Mohamed Shaheeb has harshly condemned the torching of Raajje TV.

“This is a cowardly act that violates vital democratic principles of freedom of expression and press. This commission calls for an investigation and prosecution of those involved,” he said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed said in a tweet that he strongly condemns the attack on Raajje TV, asking the “Raajje TV team not to worry and come back on air as soon as possible.”

Maldives Media Council President Mohamed Husham spoke out against lack of protection to the media in a tweet:  “We have not seen any results from the discussions to provide protection equally to all media.”

The Maldives Post Services has suspended services from its main office, which is located next door.

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.

The Civil Court has since ruled that the police and president’s office’s decisions  to ostracize the station were both unconstitutional.

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.

According to Raajje TV the station had an audience of at least 95,000 people, one of the largest shares of Maldivian media. It reached India and Sri Lanka, and is also streamed online.


Maldives’ media in spotlight as election fallout continues

The rising trend of death threats being sent via telecommunications devices has prompted the Communication Authority of the Maldives (CAM) to request police investigate and take action against offenders.

CAM’s statement comes a day after ongoing death threats received by the Elections Commission (EC)’s permanent staff and polling station officials prompted the commission to file a report with the Maldives Police Service (MPS).

CAM highlighted that intimidating threats and death threats are criminal offences and the institution called on all Maldivians to refrain from using telecommunications devices to commit such criminal acts.

The government agency called on everyone receiving threats to report the incident(s) to police.

CAM also emphasized that offenders would have their telecommunications services terminated without further notice.

Media council “lost faith” in broadcasting commission

Meanwhile, the Maldives Media Council (MMC) will file a no-confidence motion against Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) members via Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, reported local media.

MMC believes the broadcasting commission has failed to fulfill its mandate to create a healthy broadcast media environment, instead creating fear and discomfort, is unable to uniformly treat media agencies equitably, and is unable to fulfil the Broadcasting Act’s mandates.

The media council has also called on MBC to “stop any action that might affect freedom of media” including creating fear and threatening media agencies.

“MBC was threatening media organizations [and] was failing to establish equality in implementing regulations…and therefore MMC has lost faith in the current members of MBC,” MMC President Husham Mohamed told local media.

MMC decided to file the case in Parliament after MBC issued a “warning” on Friday night (September 27), saying that broadcasting licenses would be revoked from any outlet transmitting content which “threatens national security”, Husham explained.

MBC said it would file legal proceedings against any media organisation it believed had broadcast such materials in violation of the Broadcasting Act.

Another factor prompting the MMC to take action against the broadcasting commission was MBC’s call on Thursday (September 26) that broadcasters to “refrain from airing photos of members of independent institutions – Supreme Court judges and Elections Commission members – in a derogatory manner which could jeopardize national harmony, until the Commission concludes adjudication of the related complaints”.

Seven of 11 MMC members voted in favor of the action against MBC members during the extra-ordinary meeting held on Saturday (September 28).

Last week the Broadcasting Commission ruled that the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s televising of the Jamiyyathul Salaf’ ‘Al Andhalus’ preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim did not violate any regulations.

The decision came after the Broadcasting Corporation’s chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik along with MBC members were summoned before Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, following complaints by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs that the sermon infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

MMC Elections Commission complaint

The MMC has also called on the Elections Commission to “refrain from discriminating between media organizations when sharing information regarding the presidential elections”.

“I haven’t heard that complaint [officially from the Maldives Media Council],” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News yesterday (September 29).

“I have respected calls from various media [outlets, however] what I say is not properly addressed in reports, so I’m private as possible,” Thowfeek explained. “I give interviews to people I can trust to write what I say [accurately].”

“Also it depends on the time I have, [for example] if I’m in a meeting I can’t speak to anyone, but once I have free time I do,” he continued.

“If I believe the journalist will give [my] message accurately then I will give [that person] reports,” he emphasised.

MBC recently launched an investigation into Villa TV (VTV) – owned by resort tycoon, former Judicial Services Commission member, and Jumhooree Party Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim – broadcasting unsubstantiated content to incite hatred against the Elections Commission in violation of the broadcasting code of practice.

Local media broadcasting unsubstantiated information about the Elections Commission and electoral process catalyzed unrest throughout the Maldives.

Confusion over the presidential election’s first round voting figures was created by local media reports not matching those of the EC during counting, with sluggish EC figures supplemented by differing poll results, depending on the outlet chosen.

Media misrepresentation

Inaccurate local media reporting was also highlighted as a problem by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik during an press conference held today (September 30).

“My comments made in public on Friday have been changed a lot [in local media reports],” said Manik.

“I want all Maldivians to know this. I work against brutality. I specifically said if any of the police officers here hit me, I will tell my wife to go and tell his wife not to brutalize us,” he emphasised.

Police are currently investigating Manik for threatening police and their families.

Meanwhile, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has ruled that it had not come across any substantial evidence supporting the claims of Manik being attacked by Corporal Mohamed Atheef during the brutal police crackdown on February 8, 2012.

UN human rights encouragement

In light of these local media issues, the Maldives’ United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office has encouraged journalists to leverage the UN human rights system to collectively advocate for freedom of opinion and expression to be upheld.

“As media professionals, I would encourage you to build your awareness and knowledge of international human rights standards, and reflect on how you could use the UN human rights system to, especially collectively, advocate for the respect and protection of freedom of opinion and expression in the Maldives, including the protection of journalists,” said UN Human Rights Adviser Safir Syed.

“I cannot emphasise enough that it really is in your interests,” he added.

The UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on freedom of opinion and expression was attached to an email sent to various local media outlets yesterday (September 29).

“A free, uncensored and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other Covenant rights. It constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society,” Syed quoted from the General Comment document.


Q&A: Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek

The Maldives’ Elections Commission (EC) is preparing for the presidential election’s second round run-off amidst the Jumhooree coalition’s refusal to accept its first round defeat, triggering a barrage of judicial, political, media and civil society actions against the commission.

The Jumhooree Party (JP) – in conjunction with the Attorney General (AG) and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – has led a Supreme Court case to annul the election, whilst the party’s High Court case against the commission was conducted in tandem. In response to the JP’s vote fraud claims the police barricaded the EC secretariat and searched its garbage, while multiple protests and threats have targeted  the commission and its members and local media has broadcast unsubstantiated information about the commission and electoral process.

The EC has emphatically dismissed allegations of vote rigging as “baseless and unfounded”, highlighting its transparency and extensive preparations – conducted with international support – to ensure a free and fair polling process. International election observers have unanimously commended the first round of polling, calling for losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled.

With the September 28 run-off less than a week away, Minivan News discusses some of the challenges faced by the commission with Fuwad Thowfeek, Chairperson of the country’s first independent Elections Commission (EC).

Supreme Court case

Leah R Malone: Considering the politicised nature of the Supreme Court – as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul – is there a risk the Supreme Court’s order to hand over the EC’s only original copy of the voter list could lead to it being tampered with? Specifically, given the lack of material evidence or witnesses presented against the EC thus far, is there a potential opportunity for names to be added to the original voter list to substantiate the JP’s claims?

Fuwad Thowfeek: Thursday (September 19) the Supreme Court ordered the Elections Commission provide the original voter list, so we’ve been making color copies. EC members sat down and discussed [the situation], the constitution and presidential election laws, as well as met with our legal team. Since it’s a Supreme Court case they can order anything be given, so it’s best to follow that order [and provide the list].

However our legal team advised us to take very accurate color copies of each page before sending the originals. We are keeping the duplicates and in case any changes are made [to the originals] we will very easily be able to recognise them. It is the best solution we have at the moment.

As of about 3:45pm or 4:00pm Friday (September 20) we sent 120 lists to the Supreme Court. 200 will be sent Saturday and the day after the remaining lists. We are sending the original documents as the copies are being made.

LRM: If the Supreme Court rules to annul the presidential election’s first round, what will the Elections Commission do?

FT: That’s a big question because according to the constitution and even elections law there is nothing said [about whether the Supreme Court can take that action]. We have to ask the Supreme Court to give a timetable or something [for the presidential election]. Other than that there’s nothing we can do.

We won’t be able to fulfill the time requirement set forth in the constitution [if the run-off isn’t held on schedule]. 120 days before the end of the current president’s term a presidential election must be held. If there is no election then the [democratic] constitution, presidential and general election law will not be satisfied.

The strangest, funniest thing is that they are still not able to identify a single person who has voted fraudulently. For example, they have not been able to show anyone who is younger than 18 has voted, but they have been claiming many underage people fraudulently voted. If there are many [that voted fraudulently] they should be able to verify and show at least one person. They are also claiming that dead people voted, and when they submitted the list of seven names to the High Court, the court gave us the list to check. So we reviewed the voter registry and voter list, found phone numbers on record for four people and when we spoke with them, the individuals verified they were indeed alive and had voted. We are sure we will be able to find the remaining three people.

The other thing is if a dead person voted, someone should be able to show that this is the person who voted under the deceased’s name. Also, the JP is claiming 50,000 fraudulent votes have been added. The strangest thing is none of these ballots have been identified. No ballot boxes were found to have more votes cast than voters registered. Only one ballot box – located on a resort island – was found to have exactly 100 percent voter turnout. The average voter turnout was 88.44 percent nationwide.

LRM: Has Attorney General Azima Shukoor been in contact with the Elections Commission?

FT: That was another surprise to us actually. She has not been in contact with us and then suddenly appeared in the Supreme Court case. The funniest thing is the AG is supposed to support government institutions, but in this case the AG is speaking against the EC. She is supporting JP without evidence or witnesses, just saying there were errors in the voters list, but is not able to cite what those specific errors are because she has not seen [or requested to see] the list.

When I heard the AG was going to participate in the Supreme Court case, I thought it would be on behalf of the EC and she would tell the court [the vote rigging allegations are] simply not possible and the court cannot give any room to cancel the first round and re-hold it. [However,] when the AG came out and spoke against the EC – just like any political party supporter of JP – we released a press statement stating that the commission regrets this action by the AG. Both the AG and the JP have not provided any evidence or witnesses to support their allegations.

The government has spent over MVR 30 million (US $1,949,310) on the first round, there is no budget remaining [to hold both rounds again]. If it’s difficult for the government to provide the additional budget for the second round, there will be so many difficulties if the [results are annulled and] voting rounds are held again.

[Prior to the Supreme Court case] we hadn’t had much contact with the office of the AG or the AG. Last year after the change of government, in March or April, the EC met with the AG and spoke about changes that were required in the election laws, but nothing has materialised so far. She told us at the time that there were so many laws requiring revision.

Before the end of the last Supreme Court session, the Chief Justice ordered the EC to submit the original copy of the voters’ list. They are probably going to check the list to see whether people below the age of 18 voted. If they want to check for that, it’s fine. We are 100 percent sure they will not find anyone below 18 who voted.

Accessing the voter list

LRM: Following the High Court order for the EC to allow JP access to the voter list – under the guidelines determined by the commission – what were the exact protocol guidelines the EC enacted during the JP representative’s visit? What other political party representatives were present?

FT: Tuesday (September 17) the High Court ordered the EC to show the voter list to political parties. We have only one original [copy of the voters list] and had to make arrangements to follow the High Court’s order to show JP [the list], so we made the arrangements for Thursday (September 19).

This was because the EC needed time to prepare, seek advice from our legal team, and to hold a discussion meeting with our members. At the same time, arrangements for other candidates to see the voter list were also made. We invited all four political parties to send representatives to see the original voter list.

The viewing started at 10:00am. A team from JP came and GIP, but no PPM – even in court they said they did not want to see the voter list. An MDP representative came, but he said he did not want to see it.

We asked the other two – representatives from JP and GIP – what they wanted to see. Then again they wanted more people [from their parties] to come and for the EC to make copies [of the list for them]. But we couldn’t make that arrangement because we have to be very careful with our only copy [of the list], so our own official would show it to one representative at a time. There were arguments from the political party representatives [about these guidelines].

[However,] the lawyer, Dr Hassan Saeed [JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s running mate and head of JP’s legal team] said that now he does not need to look at the voter list anymore because he would prefer for the EC to hand it over to the Supreme Court.

(JP’s Legal Advisor Mohamed Haleem told Minivan News last week that the party would seek an additional High Court order for unrestricted access to the voter list).

LRM: With the ‘leaked’ police intelligence report – which the AG is citing in the Supreme Court – alleging there were “some opportunities for fraud” and “illegal voting”, the AG arguing for the Supreme Court to order the police to investigate the EC, and the police barricading and searching the EC’s garbage, do you think the police are politicised and acting against the EC?

FT: I don’t think anything will happen. I heard the AG demanded the PG issue an order to the police to investigate some of these allegations, but so far the commission has not been contacted by the police or the PG. But we don’t know anything about this. The AG should have met and spoke with the EC before making such a decision and then advising another institution [to take action].

LRM: What has been the outcome of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC)’s investigation into Villa TV (VTV) broadcasting programmes to incite hatred and create an uprising against the EC? Have any substantive actions been taken by MBC against VTV?

FT: We don’t know about the [outcome of the] MBC investigation. They said they will be taking actions against those broadcasting untruthful content. We know that VTV has stopped broadcasting the ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ (‘fraud in the name of the vote’) programme. But for a very long time they have been showing ‘Fasmanzaru’ (‘five horizons’), where various JP political party members or supporters just talk against the EC or against the election’s first round. Although what they have to say has no substance.

Saturday or Sunday we have to send a complaint letter to MBC. Again I have called MBC’s President Mohamed Shahyb and by phone have spoken to him about ‘Fasmanzaru’ [and the unsubstantiated claims its spreading].

LRM: How will the EC provide more timely information to media during the second round run-off to avoid the confusion created by inaccurate local media reports of polling station figures during the first round?

FT: We have not yet decided. I think we need more frequent refreshing of figures and will try to have more frequent reports from the EC on the 28th. If everything does not go well it may be difficult… we may not be able to go to the Dharubaaruge [convention centre in Male’]. We will try to have better updates through the internet, but will be focusing on communicating directly with the media.

Threats and protests

LRM: The ‘National Movement’ has announced they will raise their voices in protest if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule against the EC. They are calling for the EC to be reformed – with yourself, the Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz, and commission member Ali Mohamed Manik resigning. Have previous JP protests and planned National Movement protests caused any problems for the EC? Why are they targeting the three of you?

FT: Even JP supporters – except the 20 or 30 people shouting on the streets – have accepted the first round results and are not causing any problems.

Thursday night around 10:30pm 20 or 30 protesters came near the EC Secretariat, shouted for 30 minutes and left. They were demanding my resignation and saying ‘thief of votes’ and that type of thing, they wanted the [first round] results cancelled and a fresh election to be held. Sometimes they ask for myself and the Vice Chair to resign, sometimes different EC members, and sometimes the entire commission.

These are a few unsatisfied people paid by somebody – who has the money – but they know they’re not shouting for any solid thing. They get on a loudspeaker [and protest] after somebody asks or pays them – they are doing it for that reason alone, not based on anything reasonable. If it was a public thing then I’d be more concerned. But this is just a few people and most are not educated. They don’t know what’s going on [with the election] or how the voting process works.

There are five members of the EC and all decisions are made by the five members. [However,] the Vice Chair Fayaz, member Manik, and I are the three members interacting the most with the public, on TV etc  – that’s why they are going against us.

LRM: What kind of threats have been made against EC members and/or staff?

FT: Some of us are getting threats from unknown people. I have received SMS messages saying ‘be careful when you come out on the street, you’ll be stabbed in the stomach’. We [commission members] have security provided by the police and we move around with them.

My wife has been scared. Two times people went near our home shouting [and protesting], but the police protected our home and stopped the people from coming too near.

LRM: Do you think the MPS can provide adequate security for EC members?

FT: Yes, the MPS is fully capable. I’m sure nobody can harm me. They have to look at a distance but can’t touch me. Of that I’m fully confident, I’m not scared. I’m confidant know what I’m doing is right and I have the support of the people and the whole international community – observers and monitors. They’ve seen the electoral process [during the first round], which they have commended, praised, and complemented. I’m very happy and am moving ahead with my duties. My work cannot be stopped by a few people. I have full confidence in myself and am moving ahead.

LRM: The JP, some of their supporters, and the National Movement have claimed the EC, its members and staff are biased toward MDP – will you clarify for the public whether there is any truth in this accusation?

FT: There’s no truth to that, it’s some kind of story that some of the opponents wanted to spread. This commission, all its members and staff, do not belong to any political party or align with any political party.

We have staff who are married to people from different political parties – PPM, MDP, DRP, etc – and police officers. Staff members’ spouses may belong to a political party, but that is their own interest and has nothing to do with the duties of our staff. I have full confidence in our staff, they are very faithful to their duties and this commission and would not do anything unjust. I’m confident in my staff and that none are aligned with the MDP.

If they [a particular politician or political party] don’t get the result they want from a particular institution, they tend to claim that institution is opposition-aligned. The MDP got the best result [Nasheed secured 45.45 percent of the vote], so this time the EC is accused of being MDP aligned. If Yameen won then the EC would be accused of being PPM aligned.

In another instance, right after the change of government [in February 2012] some said the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) was PPM aligned, because most of the decisions made were more likely to the advantage of PPM. That’s just the kind of talk that happens.

Run-off preparations

LRM: What kind of support are local and international partners providing the EC for the second round? Is anything additional needed prior to the run-off scheduled for the 28th?

FT: We are getting a lot of support from international and local partners. The Commonwealth has expressed their satisfaction with the EC’s professionalism and their continued support for the commission. They will be sending another observer team for the run-off. The EU sent different observer teams – from various countries – on the 7th and will most likely send more for the 28th. Observers from Japan, Thailand, India, UK, US, and a Pakistani Elections Commissioner were present during the first round and expressed their interest in observing the second round. They will most likely send more teams for the run-off. I think they will come before the 28th to see the place, visit other islands, and see how ready we are for the second round.

Transparency Maldives sent the observers nationwide and their report praised the electoral process. The HRCM also observed the first round and praised us on our work and confirmed everything during the election went well. The Maldivian Democracy Network also expressed their support and commended the work the EC has done.

LRM: How have EC members, staff, and their families been impacted by the controversy the commission has faced since the first round? How has this impacted run-off election preparations?

FT: Right now there is very heavy work we have left to do before the 28th. We are so busy we are working 24 hours a day and the EC staff works in shifts, half are sent home to sleep when the other half report in.

For example, in addition to the 470 ballot boxes necessary for the first round, the second round will require an additional box be placed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and two more on tourist resorts that have applied to keep ballot boxes this round.

Everyone of us has to spend so much time in the office. We go early in the morning and stay until late at night, even on weekends, while our families are alone at home. Our families suffer, but they fully support us so we can fulfill our national duty.

It’s a very difficult job but I’m lucky to have the confidence of the people and [political party] leaders – even Gasim’s close people, President Waheed and President Nasheed know me well, and the honorable Yameen and Gayoom know and trust me. Even those who speak against me only speak for political gain or just to control their supporters.

I know what I’m doing is right and everything will be fine for elections to take place the 28th. We are fully ready for the second round. If we are able to hold on until the 28th then we will know the next president of the country.

LRM: Given the barrage of judicial, political, media and civil society actions against the EC, is the electoral environment still conducive to holding a free and fair presidential election on September 28?

FT: I think on the 28th of September the second round will go ahead as we have planned and have been working toward. There has been very little or no change [in the electoral environment] that would require we make any changes to our own program. Compared to last week, this week things have very much improved. I’m very confident things will calm down.

I’ve spoken to different people [representing political parties] and the most interesting thing is even those against us in the Supreme Court, they know there was nothing wrong with the election. Gasim’s employees, senior political party members, are trying to just give him a perspective that they did so much to cover up their failure to get Gasim the required number of votes [to proceed to the run-off]. They know the cases submitted in the High Court and Supreme Court are not going to give them any recount. Nothing will come out in their favour. They just want to go as far as they can go.

A lot of energy has been wasted by everyone – their people, our people, the Supreme Court.

I’m very hopeful the country will be ready for the run-off. We cannot keep this second round [from happening on schedule]. Particularly for the benefit of the country, to maintain the peace and harmony of our home [nation], we have to hold the second round.

If we fail, we will likely face more and more problems as the time passes. It will be in the interest of the government, all political parties, and all thoughtful citizens of the country to hold the run-off. Anybody trying to obstruct the election is unpatriotic.


EC warns parliament over VTV’s attempt to “incite uprising” against commission

The Elections Commission (EC) has raised concerns in Parliament’s National Security Committee that there may not be a suitable environment for the presidential election’s second round should Villa TV (VTV), owned by Gasim Ibrahim and his Jumhooree Party (JP), continue to deliberately spread false information and incite people to rise up against the commission.

The National Security Committee unanimously approved the EC’s request to share their concerns about local media spreading JP’s “baseless and unfounded” claims last Friday (September 13).

The parliamentary committee then summoned the Elections Commission (EC), the Maldives Police Service (MPS), the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) to appear for questioning Saturday (September 14) in regard to its investigation into the EC case filed against the JP.

“For the past week, the media has been trying to spread a lot of untrue stories. There have been so many figures quoted with no truth in them,” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News yesterday (September 15).

“The problem isn’t local media in general, but VTV has been doing this deliberately,” said Thowfeek.

VTV had been continuously broadcasting the live program ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ (‘fraud in the name of the vote’) as well as reports against the EC and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), since the preliminary results from presidential election’s first round indicated Gasim placed third with 24.07 percent, a total of 50,422 votes.

“We went to Parliament’s National Security Committee and raised these concerns because VTV and JP [members] at their ‘jagaha’ (campaign meeting hub) are inciting people to uprise,” said Thowfeek.

“We are concerned that if they keep continuing that we may not find the opportunity for a peaceful, harmonious environment suitable for voting on the 28th,” he continued.

During the National Security Committee meeting these issues were brought to the attention of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Maldives Police Service (MPS), and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC).

“These three institutions were present during the second round of the meeting Saturday – MBC because of VTV’s role in broadcasting these things all day and night,” noted Thowfeek.

“The MNDF and MPS [were notified] because the JP and VTV have continued to call on people to obstruct and oppose the second round of elections,” he explained.

“However, I noticed a change in VTV’s content after the National Security Committee meeting, because I didn’t see the ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ program broadcast Saturday night,” he added.

Minivan News observed this morning (September 16) that the ‘breaking news’ on VTV involved broadcasting as fact allegations that the EC was destroying election-related documents.

Police acted on the JP’s claim and barricaded the entrance to the EC secretariat early this morning, however by afternoon police had released a statement confirming that no documents potentially affecting the election results had been found among those disposed of by the commission.

“It’s really sad that one of the [presidential election] contestants – after he failed to get the votes required to compete in the second round – has behaved in such a very immature manner,” said Thowfeek.

“Gasim and [his running mate, Dr Hassan] Saeed both failed in the first round of the 2008 presidential election and without any fuss or problems they accepted their defeat,” he noted. “So I thought they’d be more mature this time and not raise problems, but this time they have failed to digest their loss.”

“It’s not a good example to set for the public and it’s not a good thing for the future,” he added.

Committee statements taken out of context: EC

Thowfeek also noted that statements he and EC Member Ali Mohamed Manik gave about the voter registry during the National Security Committee meeting had been taken out of context by local media.

“Saying these [11] people [who voted in the first round] were not registered voters is not true information,” said Thowfeek.

“These people were on the voter registry list. They were on the final gazetted list that was published publicly, they are not new names,” he continued. “The were also found on the voter registry that was sent to the ballot boxes.”

Thowfeek explained that an interim voter registry document was created after the voter list was published on the government gazette – and accessible for public review so the EC could be notified of needed corrections.

While the 11 voters in question were not included on interim document, their names were found on final voter registry list sent to polling stations, he emphasised.

“Due to a clerical error the EC was not able to find their names in the correct places [on the interim document],” said Thowfeek. “It was the fault of the EC administration. However, this was a case by case issue.”

“If anyone’s name is missed to the a fault of the EC then the commission is responsible for correcting the problem and giving the person a chance to vote,” he added.

Thowfeek emphasised that international observers from 17 commonwealth countries – including Australia, Malaysia, India and UK – as well as the US, EU, Japan and Thailand had all praised the smooth, calm, peaceful, transparent and open election process.

“During a gathering we had with the international observers the evening of September 8, they said this election is just like what anybody can see in a developed country because it was so open, transparent and organised,” he added.

Local media problems

Meanwhile, MBC has launched an investigation into VTV broadcasting unsubstantiated content to incite hatred against the EC in violation of the broadcasting code of practice. The commission stated that it was investigating the matter after a case was filed by a private individual.

“The investigation is ongoing, so I cannot comment [on the VTV case],” MBC President Mohamed Shahyb told Minivan News today.

“We have to watch real time video [from VTV] which takes time,” he explained. “If it is determined that VTV breached the [broadcasting] code of practice then we will give them an opportunity to respond.”

“The commission has to follow procedures to give them time to reply, only then we can adjudicate and reach a final conclusion,” he added.

Shahyb expects the investigation will “probably” be completed by late this week or early next week.

Although the VTV case also falls within the Maldives Media Council (MMC)’s mandate, no official complaints have yet been filed, the MMC told Minivan News today.

However, the MMC did receive an SMS expressing concern with VTV’s broadcasts, which was discussed by the council’s five member committee dedicated to election issues.

With the ongoing Supreme Court and High Court cases as well as MBC’s investigation, the MMC has not decided to take any official action as of yet, however the issue is “on the table”, it noted.

The MMC also noted it had not received any official complaints regarding the conflicting and inaccurate media reporting of first round voting figures during the counting process.

Confusion over the voting figures was created by local media reports not matching those of the EC during counting, with sluggish EC figures supplemented by differing poll results, depending on the outlet chosen. One local newspaper even had voted turnout at 102 percent for much of the counting process.

Prior to the release of the provisional results at 5:00am on Saturday 8, a small group of JP supporters demonstrated outside the Dharubaruge convention centre alleging a 10,000 vote discrepancy.


National Security Committee investigating local media spreading JP’s claims against Elections Commission

Parliament’s National Security Committee summoned the Elections Commission (EC), the Maldives Police Service (MPS), the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) to appear for questioning today in regard to its investigation into an EC case filed against the Jumhoree Party (JP).

An EC letter requesting the National Security Committee provide the commission an opportunity to share their concerns about local media spreading JP’s “baseless and unfounded” claims, was presented yesterday (September 13) by committee chairperson MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and unanimously approved, according to local media.

“The National Security Committee is concerned that the [presidential] contestants unfounded claims of corruption against the EC are a threat to national security,” Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today.

MBC has been summoned to the parliamentary committee for allegations that Villa TV (VTV) – owned by resort tycoon and JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim – was spreading information to incite hatred against the EC, while the MPS and MNDF will be questioned to determine whether current events pose a threat to national security, according to Sun Online.

Meanwhile, MBC has launched an investigation into VTV broadcasting unsubstantiated content in violation of the broadcasting code of practice. The commission stated that it was investigating the matter after a case was filed by a private individual, according to local media.

VTV has been continuously broadcasting the live program ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ (‘fraud in the name of the vote’) as well as reports against the EC and MDP ever since Gasim placed third in the first round of the presidential election with 24.07 percent, a total of 50,422 votes, reports CNM.

Asked about the confusion over the voting figures in the media not matching those of the EC during counting, Elections Commission Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz criticised local media’s role in the matter.

“Politicians and newspapers have reported this [10,000 votes issue]”, he said, singling out the online publication Times.mv for particular criticism.

Meanwhile, during an elections National Advisory Committee meeting held Thursday (September 12), the JP, along with representatives of the PPM and President Mohamed Waheed, agreed they all want a vote recount of all ballot boxes conducted.

However, the MDP’s representative on the Advisory Committee insisted there were no grounds to warrant a vote recount and accused JP of not noting any issues during polling.

“It’s a matter of principle – this was a democratic election held under a democratic system. All parties were given an opportunity to send observers and monitors, and their observations [of the voting and counting process] were done in front of the people, as per the law,” said Ghafoor.

“This was an elaborate, laborious process with each count confirmed and then exhibited at each voting centre,” he continued.

“A recount would set a bad precedent that is not in the national interest. It would create a loss of faith in the system,” he emphasised.

Ghafoor noted that international observers have praised the transparency of the election process, including four former Election Commissioners hailing from India and the Commonwealth.

“The EC is one of the [only] effective, independent commissions we have. It has a very clean track record, which everyone knows,” declared Ghafoor. “An elaborately developed legal process [for elections] has been in place since 2008, there have been at least 11 by-elections conducted to date and none of them have been contested.”

He noted that the election results are being contested “by people like Gasim Ibrahim, who are from a culture that has rigged votes all their lives.”

Meanwhile, Elections Commission Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz told local media the JP had requested a recount without any legal basis. He noted that if all the ballot box seals were broken for a recount, this could create election confidence issues and set a dangerous precedent for future elections. He proposed recounting boxes randomly as an alternative.


Maldives Media Council submitting case against President’s Office “to create a free media”

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has voted to submit a case against the President’s Office to “create a free media” in light of the discriminatory treatment of Raajje TV.

The President’s Office is violating equal rights by not inviting the opposition-aligned TV station Raajje TV to events and has not been adhering to the MMC’s requests that it give equal opportunities to all media, the MMC Secretariat told Minivan News (April 9).

The case will be submitted to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office April 10.

“MMC members have voted to submit the case. Members have a strong feeling that it is a necessary step to take in order to create a free media in the Maldives,” said the MMC Secretariat.

The MMC has been very active the past two months trying to solve these problems and is now sending the case to the PG, Raajje TV Deputy Chief Executive Officer Abdulla Yamin told Minivan News.

The President’s Office has not been inviting Raajje TV to press conferences, has denied reporters entry press events in the President’s Office, and has not sent the channel any government press statements, Yamin claimed.

The President’s Office also asked government ministries and state-owned companies not to give information to Raajje TV and for these companies to stop providing private sponsorship to the media outlet.

Yamin said that they had observed this treatment was particular only to their channel.

“The President’s Office said they have not invited us because it is their privilege to decide whether to invite Raajje TV or not,” said Yamin.

“We are talking about rights granted in the constitution, not a privilege. There must be a situation [in the Maldives] where independent media can run.

“Article 28 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of the press and article 29 assures the right to freedom of information,” Yamin declared.

Yamin explained that the MCC had acted as a mediator to try and resolve the lack of cooperation shown by the President’s Office to Raajje TV.

“The President’s Office said if we do certain things they will cooperate. However, then the President’s Office is forcing their influence on our editorial policy,” said Yamin.

“We are not going to negotiate our constitutionally guaranteed right to information,” he added.

Ongoing government discrimination

Raajje TV filed a case against the President’s Office in the Civil Court in September 2012, complaining that the station had been boycotted from official events. Yamin expects the civil court to issue their verdict later this week.

Raajje TV also submitted a case to the parliamentary committee on government accountability regarding the president’s office discriminating against the media outlet. Parliament invited the president’s office to attend the committee twice, but never received a response, according to Yamin.

Additionally, Raajje TV lodged a complaint against the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) with the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), alleging it was “using its power to give benefits” to other TV channels by providing them funding.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) was contacted by the ACC regarding the matter, but did not respond, according to Yamin.

“The MBC have not done anything regarding our right to information. They should be working on these issues to make sure rights are assured,” said Yamin.

Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed previously named Raajje TV as an “enemy of state” in a press conference held in July, the same day on which the Maldives Police Services publicly stated its refusal to provide cooperation or protection to the channel.

Raajje TV also filed a case against the Maldives Police Services in September 2012 over their decision to deny cooperation or protection to the channel. In February 2013, the Civil Court ruled that the decision by the Maldives Police Service to cease cooperating with Raajje TV was unconstitutional.

Dismissing the police argument that it had the sole discretion to decide who to invite to press conferences and functions, the court stated that the action more resembled a deliberate attempt to limit the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of media and the right to information.

Raajje TV believes this verdict will apply to the President’s Office as well.

“If the court is fair and balanced a similar verdict will come. I believe the court won’t be that corrupt because the constitution and laws are clear. It’s written in black and white,” Yamin said.

Raajje TV is one of the five private broadcasters in the country and is the only television station aligned with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The TV station has come under substantial pressure and criticism from groups including the government and political parties aligned with it.

RaajjeTV has been the subject of continuous verbal attacks by the state following the transfer of power in February.

In early August 2012, Raajje TV’s control room was sabotaged by intruders.

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders at the time condemned this attack, stating “This targeted and well-prepared operation was the foreseeable culmination of the new government’s escalating verbal attacks on Raajje TV. How the authorities respond will be seen as a test of their commitment to media pluralism.”

The President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were not responding to calls at time of press.


Police decision to ostracise Raajje TV unconstitutional, rules civil court

The Civil Court has ruled that a decision by the Maldives Police Service to cease cooperating with opposition-aligned TV station Raajje TV was unconstitutional.

Police announced in July that they had stopped cooperating with the local broadcaster, alleging that the station was broadcasting false and slanderous content about the police which had undermined its credibility and public confidence. Raajje TV subsequently filed a suit in the civil court challenging the legality of the decision and requested the court to order police take back their decision.

Delivering the verdict, Civil Court Judge Mariyam Nihayath said the court was of the view that the police decision had been to completely suspend cooperation with the TV station, rather than just barring the channel from specific events and functions.

The judge added that the court believed such a decision was “extremely dangerous and significantly serious” and could result in “chaos and infringement of social harmony.”

Dismissing the police argument that it had the sole discretion to decide who to invite to press conferences and functions, the court stated that the action more resembled a deliberate attempt to limit the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of media and the right to information.

“Therefore, the court finds the decision by the Maldives Police Service to not to cooperate with Raajje TV a violation of the constitution of the Maldives and the Maldives Police Services Act, and orders the Maldives Police Service to provide protection for the employees and property of the station, and to not discriminate against the  TV station when providing information,” read the verdict.

Following the decision, police media official Superintendent Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that police would fully respect the court’s decision.

He further said that a police legal team would be reviewing the judgement and if the need arose, would appeal the decision in the High Court.

“We will come to a decision very soon. We will also be seeking advice from the attorney general and then seek a final decision on whether to appeal the case,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Yamin Rasheed told the media that the judgement was a “huge achievement” for both the station and those working in the media.

“Raajje TV single-handedly stood up against the decision without support from any authority or organisation. We knew the police decision was wrong and that is why we filed the case. I believe this is a huge achievement for both Raajje TV and the media of the country,” he said.

Following the decision last year, police issued a statement claiming the channel had “deliberately and continuously broadcast false and baseless content with the intention to incite hatred [towards police].”

“Raajje TV’s broadcasting of false and baseless content about the police institution is seen to be carried out for the political benefit of certain parties and such actions neither fit with the norms of professional journalism or the principles followed by media outlets of other democratic countries,” read the statement.

The decision came just a day after Raajje TV broadcast CCTV footage of several police officers, whom the station alleged were “caught on video” while attempting to steal petrol from a motorbike parked in an alley in Male’.

Police later denied the allegations and condemned Raajje TV for spreading “false and untrue” information about them.

Superintendent of Police Abdulla Navaz in a press briefing at the time stated that the video footage was showing police carrying out their legal duty.

Raajje TV had twisted the details and information in their news report, Navaz alleged, claiming that police were confiscating a five litre container of petrol rather than stealing it.

Following the broadcast of the video, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) sent a letter to the TV station accusing it of broadcasting the content without checking its authenticity and ordered it to apologise for its  actions.

However, speaking to Minivan News at the time, Yamin confirmed the incident took place and said the station would stand by its broadcast.

Raajje TV is one of the five private broadcasters in the country and is the only television station aligned with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The TV station has come under substantial pressure and criticism from groups including the government and political parties aligned with it.  The station has also claimed to have faced outright sabotage.


Court extends detention of Afrasheem murder suspects, MDP raises concerns of ‘politically motivated’ arrests

Additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer.

The Criminal Court has opted to extend the detention period of four suspects accused of involvement in the murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, as parliament’s ’241′ Security Services Committee today meets to discuss politician safety.

Authorities today confirmed that the four suspects, which the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has alleged include two “front-line activists”, would be kept in custody for an extra 15 days as the investigation into the murder of the MP continued.

The high profile murder has been met with growing speculation from politicians over potential political or religious motives, yet police have so far provided no details on the nature of the murder, despite allegations and counter claims appearing in the media.

The MDP yesterday  expressed concern that the “brutal murder of a respected and elected member of the Parliament” was potentially being used to frame political opponents. The party has therefore called for “calm and restraint”, while also slamming the President’s Office for issuing statement claimed to connect the attack to former President Mohamed Nasheed.  Along with condemning the murder, Nasheed this week praised Dr Afrasheem for his moderate views on the country’s Islamic identity.

According to a BBC report earlier this week, the President Office’s Media Secretary “sent out a text describing  MP Afrasheem as the ‘strongest critic’ of Nasheed.”

Rules and regulations

Despite the allegations, Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid told Minivan News today that the extension of the suspects’ detention period was in accordance with rules linked to ongoing police investigations.

“Under this regulation, the police must produce anyone arrested on suspicion of criminal activity before a judge within 24 hours. The judge may order for the detention to be extended for a period of up to 15 days if the police can convince the court that a suspect needs to be detained for investigation,” he said. “In reviewing this order, the judge would consider such factors as the nature of the crime and the possibility of the suspect tampering with evidence if released for example.”

At the time of press, Maajid was unable to confirm the identity of the judge who had granted the detention extension, adding that such details could not be granted without receiving a written notice from the media. He added that the judge’s ruling had been consistent with similar investigations.

Police Spokesperson Sun-Inspector Hassan Haneef meanwhile confirmed there had been no further developments within its investigation, beyond the detention of four suspects for questioning in the case.

The Maldives police service have not so far given the identities of the suspects being detained as part of ongoing investigations.

However, the MDP yesterday released a statement claiming lawyers representing party activists Mariyam Naaifa and Ali Hashim had confirmed they had been detained as part of an investigation into the murder.

“The MDP has strongly condemned the gruesome murder of the member of parliament and scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali in the early hours of October 2, 2012,” the party claimed. “While the country is going through a difficult time following the murder of Dr. Afrasheem Ali, the MDP is deeply shocked and disturbed by the manner in which Maldives Police Services (MPS) is conducting their investigation into the incident.”

Aside from the detention of two party activists, the party added that its protest camp at the contested ‘Usfasgandu’ protest area in male’ had been searched by police officers using metal detectors yesterday.  The party has alleged that officers on the scene had confirmed the search was related to the murder of MP Afrasheem.

Speaking to Minivan News today, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor alleged that public faith in the police’s ability to conduct impartial investigations was low.

“People have lived with it their whole lives. They have been indoctrinated into silence,” he claimed.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP (DRP) Ali Azim told Minivan News that the ’241′ Security Services Committee was today summoning Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz to get an update on the progress of the ongoing investigation into MP Afrasheem’s murder.

Azim, a member of the security committee, claimed ahead of today’s meeting that it would be used to try and establish whether there was evidence to suggest the attack was politically or religiously motivated.

Aside from the ongoing murder investigation, media regulator the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) was also being summoned today over concerns about the media’s role in spreading “hatred” about MPs in the country.

While accepting that the constitution called for the allowance of freedom of speech within the media, Azim claimed that there were limits, alleging that the national press were not being held sufficiently accountable for their work.

“The media has been accusing MPs of wasting taxpayers’ money; of suggesting not enough work is being done and saying that no laws are being passed,” he said. “I don’t think these accusations should be there. A few TV, radio and online media services has been accusing MPs of these things.”

Azim said he accepted that media had a role to hold MPs accountable for their work, but questioned the accountability in turn being required of the country’s journalists.

The MP stressed that the outcome of today’s meeting, which was still ongoing at the time of press, remained confidential and that he would be unable to elaborate further on its outcome.

“Free speech”

Speaking to Minivan News today, Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said that he had not been given any information surrounding the MBC being summoned before the security committee.

Hiriga said that the MJA would await the outcome of the MBC’s meeting before making any official comment on the matter, but added that local media should continue to be able to practice free speech as long as it was accurate.

“I think there are a number of issues that we need to address in the Maldives media right now regarding ethics,” he said. “But our stand has always been that we stand against efforts to undermine the work of journalists and the right to a free media here in the Maldives.”

Hiriga added that while the media had “no right to lie” to members of the pubic, it was nonetheless vital to ensure freedom of the speech was being upheld in the Maldives.

“If some media for instance want to support the government or a certain political side, we have no issue with that, but the information provided must be accurate.”


Broadcasting Commission demands Raajje TV apologise for publicising defence minister’s text messages

Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has demanded private broadcaster Raajje TV apologise for reporting 57 leaked text messages allegedly received to Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s mobile phone during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

In a letter sent to the station yesterday, with MBC’s investigation report attached, the commission demanded that the station broadcast an apology statement from last night for three consecutive nights at prime time from 8:00pm to 10:00pm.

The commission contended that the opposition-aligned TV station violated the “code of practice” of broadcasting by airing the text messages.

Upon receiving the MBC letter, Raajje TV last night aired an apology statement “to respect the demands from “MBC to issue an “unconditional apology” following complaints of its alleged “publicising of text messages received to a man named Mohamed Nazim of M.Seenukarankaage on 22 July 2012, Raajje TV would like to apologise for this action.”

Contacted by Minivan News, Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Abdulla Yameen said that the station did not wish to comment on MBC’s decision

The MBC action followed a complaint filed by Defence Minister Nazim in June in the wake of the publication of the text messages.

In a press statement posted on social media twitter at the time, Nazim argued that Raajje TV had violated article 24 of the constitution, which guarantees right to privacy as well as article 37 of the Broadcasting Act, which prohibits the broadcast of illegally obtained information.

The text messages allegedly received on Nazim’s phone reportedly offered congratulations from officers of the security forces, family members and, prominent businesses figures, including tourism tycoon Ahmed Nazeer of Crown Company Pvt Ltd.  Prominent politicians such as Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer were also reported to have sent the messages.

“Raajje TV’s actions contravene the constitution and laws of the Maldives, as well as broadcasting ethics. Hence, I have asked the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and Maldives Police Services to investigate the matter,” Nazim said at the time.

Raajje TV News Head ‘Asward’ Ibrahim Waheed responded to Nazim’s claims insisting that the station was not responsible for the leaked text messages.

Asward explained that the text messages were made public at an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally, which Raajje TV televised.

“Numerous print media outlets have also written articles on these text messages. Therefore, Nazim’s targeting of Raajje TV on this matter again illustrates the Maldivian security forces’ attempt to gag free media,” Waheed said.

Controversial text messages

According to the document publicised by the MDP, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid sent a message to Nazim at 1:42pm stating “Need to talk urgently.”

PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer at 2:51 pm allegedly says: “Extremely grateful for your service in saving this country and its religion, thank you, Umar Naseer.”

Three phone numbers registered with the Crown Company Pvt Ltd also offered congratulations to Nazim. Tourism Tycoon Ahmed Nazeer allegedly said at 1:28 pm: “Congratulations. Once a soldier, always a soldier. Keep up the good work, but don’t go overboard. Thanks and regards, Nazeer.”

A Malaysian number which the MDP claims belongs to retired MNDF Lieutenant General Anbaree Abdul Sattar at 4:39 pm said: “Heartfelt congratulations. I pray Allah gives you the patience and wisdom as you proceed to be magnanimous and be mindful of the vow you have made to uphold the constitution and the constitution of the Maldives, Anbaree.”

Anbaree had served as former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Ambassador to India.

Two text messages also appear to discuss details of the then VP’s movements and logistics for a press conference. A number registered with the MNDF at 2:51 pm says: “Sir VP getting ready to move to Majlis,” while a man identifying himself as Colonel Adurey at 3:21 pm asks when media briefing should be scheduled.

Several security forces personnel also allegedly sent text messages to Nazim thanking and congratulating him for his role in Nasheed’s resignation.

A text message from retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Abdul Shakoor Abdulla said: “Allah Akbar Allah Akbar Akbar Alh’amdhu Lillah. Congratulations! Abdul Shakoor Abdulla Rtd. Dy Com of Police,” whilst a number registered with Lieutenant Colonel Zakariyya Mansoor reportedly sent a text message saying, “Congratulations, Mansoor.”

Another text message from a man identifying himself as “Riya” from an unlisted number said: “Moosa Jaleel’s 15 year savage reign is now over. I was one of those forced to resign. I am really proud to say I’m done STF with you in same platoon. Congratulations, Riya, five rises.” Moosa Jaleel was Chief of the Defense Forces under Nasheed. He resigned shortly after President Waheed took his oath of office.

Attacks on Raajje TV

In recent weeks, the government has stepped up verbal attacks on Raajje TV claiming the station incites hatred and violence against security forces by broadcasting “baseless allegations” regarding alleged police brutality and the service’s role in the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

The police have said it will no longer cooperate with or provide protection to Raajje TV journalists.

The President’s Office meanwhile stopped inviting the station to press conferences and other events.

Raajje TV has since filed a lawsuit against the decision by the police to not cooperate with the station. Hearings have commenced on the case.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor have said Raajje TV must bear responsibility for the murder of a police officer last month, and have pledged to take legal action against the station.

Raajje TV has previously accused the Maldives security forces of regularly targeting, attacking, threatening and harassing the station’s journalists.

In a July 10 statement, Raajje TV said: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment has been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”