Maldives to donate US$1.4million for Gaza war victims

The Help Gaza telethon, organized by Maldives media, has raised a record MVR 21.5 million (US$1.4 million) in aid for victims of the war in Gaza.

The 36 hour 30 minute long telethon began at 2:30pm on Friday with the initial MVR6.3 million (US$ 400,000) collected through the religious Adhaalath Party’s Help Gaza Fund.

A series of activities including jumble sales, fishing competitions, sports competitions, traditional drum ‘bodu beru’ shows and fairs were held throughout the weekend to raise funds.

Donations were collected through collection boxes, SMS, checks and Bank of Maldives (BML) Point of Sales systems. The Maldives Police Services and Maldives Scouts oversaw security at collection boxes. BML was in charge of collecting and managing donations.

Within the first nine hours an estimated MVR10.8 million had been raised. By noon on Saturday over MVR11 million was collected. When the telethon ended at 3am on Sunday, the steering committee estimated it had collected over MVR20 million.

The amount is double that collected for the mosque fund in 2012 (MVR10million).

“Historic Success”

The Help Gaza Telethon’s steering committee member Mohamed Asif ‘Mondhu’ has attributed the fundraising effort’s “historic success” to the empathy Maldivians feel for the people of Palestine.

Media Coordinator and Sun Editor Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir has pledged to ensure funds reached Gazans through Qatar’s Red Crescent. None of the money would be used for overhead costs, Hiriga said.

According to Hiriga, an estimated MVR9.5 million of the MCR21.5 million needs to be realised. He has called on donors to ensure contributions are deposited at BML within the next two days.

He commended the Maldives media’s joint efforts, and said he believed the large amount of donations came in response to the “worst suffering Israeli’s have put Palestinians through in recent history.”

The telethon came amid renewed violence between Israel and Palestinian militants after a three-day ceasefire ended on Friday.

More than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in four weeks of Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, the UN has said.


The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) donated MVR1million from soldier’s wages, while the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet pledged MVR500,000 each to the fund.

Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed have also pledged to donate a month’s wages (MVR50,000 and MVR75,000, respectively). Although the president’s official salary stands at MVR 100,000, Yameen only takes MVR 50,000 in a bid to reduce state expenditure.

The state’s independent institutions have also donated MVR300,000 from wages. These include the Judicial Services Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Auditor General’s Office, Maldives Inland Revenue Authority, Anti-Corruption Commission, Police Integrity Commission, Customs Integrity Commission, the Tax Appeal Tribunal, and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission.

Shaviyani Atoll Funadhoo Island residents donated money raised through a fishing competition, a slow motor biking competition and a bashi competition.

“Our aim is to ensure every citizen participates in this national effort,” Council President Ahmed Ibrahim told local media on Saturday. He said he hoped to raise MVR100,000 for the Help Gaza Fund.

Haa Alif Uligamu Island fishermen went big game fishing and pledged to donate all proceeds from selling sailfish to the fund. Each sailfish was to be sold at MVR800.

The jumble sale at Kalaafaanu School in Malé saw auctioning of wedding dresses, one child’s birthday cake and furniture. Children emptied their money boxes into collection boxes in Malé.

At 4:30pm, hundreds clothed in black gathered in the rain at the Usfasgandu area in Malé for a prayer for Palestine and a moment of silence for the dead.

“This event was very well received. So many people turned up at the Usfasgandu area, it was completely jam-packed with a large number of people standing out on the street. Today proved the sense of unity Maldivians have in our heart for the whole global Islamic community,” said event organiser and State Trading Organization’s Managing Director Ali Azim.

Meanwhile, Maldives Broadcasting Commission President Mohamed Shaheeb has commended the media for the initiative in Help Gaza Telethon.

“That the Help Gaza Telethon has been noted as one of the most successful humanitarian efforts to be carried out by the Maldivian media is, without doubt, evidence of the important work being carried out by media and the spirit of patriotism that exist amongst them,” Shaheeb said in a letter to the steering committee.

Marches were held across the world on Saturday as part of a worldwide “day of rage” against Israeli military action in Gaza. Demonstrations were held in UK, South Africa, France, Australia and India.

Other demonstrations were held in Spain, Greece, Jordan and Yemen on Friday.


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’s report on Supreme Court not a national security threat: MBC

Opposition aligned broadcaster Raajje TV’s report criticizing the judiciary does not threaten national security, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has told Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz.

In October, the Supreme Court requested the MBC to investigate Raajje TV after it broadcast a report comparing the apex court to the the corrupt judges from Koranic city of Sodom.

The report, titled “Magey Report” (My report), especially highlighted the case of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed whose alleged appearance a sex-tape is currently under investigation. Ali Hameed is still a sitting judge on the Supreme Court bench.

“While you have mentioned in the letter referred here that “Magey Report” broadcasted on Rajje Tv in the evening of 19 October 2013 contained content that is a threat to national security, this commission did not notice any such content during our investigation”  read the MBC’s letter sent on Thursday.

However, the commission ruled that the content of the report violated several codes of the Broadcasting Code of Practice. The commission has ordered Raajje TV not to broadcast the report again without amending it and has asked the station to broadcast an apology message.

According to the commission, Raajje TV had used language and references against socially accepted standards, broadcast content that could insult or reduce the sanctity, honor and dignity of a person or persons, and broadcast the report in a manner that could violate rights of children.

MBC noted the Supreme Court had asked for the investigation to be completed within ten days even though the Broadcasting Act allows a 60 day investigation period.

The Supreme Court had also ordered Maldives Police Service to investigate the report, in response to which MPS conducted a criminal investigation and sent the case to Prosecutor General’s Office late November.

During the investigation, the Channel’s Deputy CEO Yaameen Rasheed and News Head Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed were summoned by the Police. Raajje TV has chosen to remain silent

The Maldives Media Council and MBC expressed concern over the Supreme Court’s order describing it as “obstruction of press freedom”.

The MBC requested the Supreme Court to repeal the court order, however the request was denied. Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain threatened to take action against “those who spread false information about judges without respecting the sanctity of the court” saying contempt of court will not be allowed.

Serious concerns about the Maldives judiciary have been raised by various International institutions and experts, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul, International Commission of Jurists and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.


Supreme Court issues ruling allowing reporting tools into polling stations

The Supreme Court has issued a new ruling Saturday (October 12) allowing reporters and observers to carry “necessary items to perform professional duties” into polling stations.

The ruling follows a media outcry over the apex court’s prohibition on carrying any item except a pen into polling stations, stipulated in its 16 point guidelines for the holding of new presidential elections on October 19. The Supreme Court annulled the first round of polls held on September 7, following a petition by the third-placed candidate, Gasim Ibrahim.

The latest statement, signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, read: “[The Supreme Court] orders there not be any obstruction from any party to journalists and observers from using necessary objects to carry out their professional duties.”

“The purpose of the Supreme Court guidelines was to ensure elections proceed free and fairly [without intimidation, aggression, undue influence or corruption], not to impede professional duties of journalists and observers who act within the law,” the ruling read.

The Elections Commission welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling at a press conference on Saturday night, stating that the media will now be allowed to carry cameras and observers will be allowed to carry items necessary to monitor the election.

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek said the commission was working around the clock to abide by the Supreme Court guidelines and ensure elections took place within the 12 day time-frame the Supreme Court had given to hold elections.

A midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10 ordered the commission to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

However, despite requiring fingerprinted forms, the Elections Commission said it did not have the capacity to verify if the forms carried the correct fingerprints.

“The Supreme Court verdict does not say we have to verify [fingerprints]. We don’t have the capacity to do that. No institution does. But if we notice a problem, we can take those particular forms to the police for investigation,” Elections Commission member Ali Mohamed Manik said.

The 24-hour period for re-registration expired at 4:30 pm today. Manik said the commission had re-registered 10,340 people by 7:30 pm, but expected to process over 60,000 forms by Sunday evening. 65,000 people re-registered to vote ahead of the annulled September 7 poll.

Manik said over 3000 re-registration tokens required processing at 7:30 pm, but said the commission would honor all tokens. Ten forms can be submitted on every token, but political parties are allowed to submit any number of forms on tokens.

“Some political parties have bundles of 10,000 to 15,000 forms,” Manik said. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said it had prepared over 33,000 forms.

Once the re-registration process is completed the voter registry will be publicised, and three representatives from each presidential candidate will be asked to approve voter lists for every single ballot box, Manik said.

The voter registry is expected to be ready by October 14, Monday, he added.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had criticised the EC’s 24 hour re-registration window as an act to “ridicule” the Supreme Court guidelines.

In response Thowfeek said: “We are not ridiculing anyone. We are working 24-hours to abide by the Supreme Court guidelines. No matter what time you come, whether its 12:00am, 1:00am, 2:00am, you will see everyone here is hard at work, they are staying up.”

The Elections Commission will be holding information sessions for media and observers on Sunday and Monday. The names of officials who will be acting on behalf of the elections commission on polling day will be sent ahead of the election for vetting to presidential candidates as per point eight of the Supreme Court guidelines, Thowfeek said.

Point eight states that all officials must be appointed with the knowledge of candidates or their representatives to ensure that all officials in voting districts are safe from allegations of supporting or representing a particular political ideology or candidate.

New ballot papers with improved security features are also being printed as per point 12 of the Supreme Court Guideline. The EC is printing 242,625 ballot papers, and is currently in discussion with the Maldives Police Services on transporting ballot papers to polling stations.

“We couldn’t do this by ourselves. All institutions are helping out. The police, the Department of National registration, the Civil Service Commission,” Manik said.

He also said that the commission was “positive” it would be able to ensure elections took place on October 19.


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.


Don’t interfere in Maldives’ internal affairs, acting Foreign Minister tells UN General Assembly

The Maldivian government has called on the UN to ensure “non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states.”

In her address to the UN General Assembly on October 1, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to “concerted efforts by external forces to prevent the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives [by] attempting to shape the outcome of, what is, an internal issue”.

Dr Shakeela’s comments follow global concern over the Supreme Court’s indefinite suspension of a constitutionally-mandated run-off election scheduled for September 28. Police enforced the order on Saturday by surrounding the Elections Commission with orders to storm the building and seize the ballot papers unless the commission capitulated.

“Democracy consolidation is not just about holding elections. Nor is it about having a democratically sound Constitution. In the Maldives too, we quickly found that changing the Constitution, or having a multi-party election, did not instill democratic values within our society,” Dr Shakeela told the UN.

“For democracy to be cultivated and consolidated, the supremacy of the constitution must be upheld above all. The institutional deficiencies we face, must be addressed within constitutional provisions. And the political leadership must sustain an unshakable commitment to the principles and values of states.”

Presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the first round with 24.07 percent of the vote, went to the Supreme Court seeking to annul the vote alleging widespread electoral fraud and declaring “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11”.

He was swiftly joined in court by second-placed Abdulla Yameen, who received 25.35 percent of the vote, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Yameen’s former lawyer. Siding against the Elections Commission, the three alleged electoral irregularities despite the unanimous positive assessments of local and international election observers, including the UN itself.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Bai Ki-moon said he was concerned about the Supreme Court’s postponement of the second round, given that the first round was “widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”

“It is of the utmost importance that the will of the people be respected in deciding the future of the country. These are pivotal elections for reaffirming the democratic process in the Maldives,” stated the UN Secretary General.

Dr Shakeela meanwhile told the UN that “Some of the parties that competed in the election have identified serious issues with the conduct of the elections, and have asked the Supreme Court of the Maldives for a ruling. We are expecting the Court to come out with a ruling in the coming days. The integrity of the second round of our Presidential election cannot be maintained without ensuring the integrity of the first round through Constitutional means. We await the Supreme Court’s verdict to continue the electoral process.”

Dr Shakeela went on to accuse “some external forces” of “attempting to shape the outcome of, what in effect is, an internal issue. The Maldives is small. Our democracy is at an infant stage. Our institutions are young. That does not, however, mean that larger countries have a right to intervene and attempt to dictate outcomes in domestic affairs of the Maldives.”

Protests resulting from the suspension of the election have meanwhile led to other countries including the UK, China, Canada and Australia to upgrade their travel advisories.


Defense Ministry blasts media outlets for “sowing discord in the military”

The Ministry of Defense and National Security has blasted certain media outlets in a statement released Tuesday (October 1) for “sowing discord and disorder in the military.”

Several media outlets carried reports this week on a “letter of concern” sent to Chief of Defence Force Major-General Ahmed Shiyam, in which the top brass of the military expressed concern over political turmoil in the country following the failure of the country to hold scheduled elections on Saturday (September 28).

“Some TV channels and media outlets are repeatedly attempting to sow discord and disorder in the military, against the constitution and laws of the Maldives,” read the statement from the Defence Ministry.

The Defence Ministry called the media reports “irresponsible” and “politically motivated.” The Ministry furthermore said it will file complaints with relevant authorities to halt such reports and said it believed the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and Maldives Media Council must take action.

The MNDF’s letter to Major-General Shiyam was initially signed by four senior officers, but 16 officers across the top brass subsequently added their names to it. The letter came after police forcibly brought runoff preparations to a halt following a Supreme Court order.

The Supreme Court had opened at midnight on Friday to order security forces to physically obstruct the election in line with its earlier suspension, invoking article 237 of the Constitution, concerning the authority of the security services to “protect the nation’s sovereignty, maintain its territorial integrity, defend the constitution and democratic institutions, maintain and enforce law and order, and render assistance in emergencies.”

One signing officer told Minivan News on condition of anonymity: “This is not a petition. It is a letter of concern over the Supreme Court’s order to delay elections, the failure of state institutions, and the possible politicisation of the military, and asking that unconstitutional orders not be issued.”

The officer said the letter had been signed by ranks including Generals, Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, Captains, First Lieutenants, Sergeant Majors and Warrant Officers.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem, himself a signatory, confirmed the letter’s existence to Minivan News.

“It was to inform the leadership of our concerns about political turbulence in the country right now and how the military should plan and prepare for it,” Colonel Raheem said, and implied that it was not unusual for senior officers to brief the Chief of Defence on such matters.

The 3000-strong MNDF is responsible not just for defence, but also the Coastguard and civil services such as firefighting and rescue operations.

The letter seems to have prompted an internal shuffle in the organisation, including a marine commander being switched to another unit. One resignation letter obtained by Minivan News, of First Lieutenant Mohamed Haleem, was addressed to Defence Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim.

“I do not believe the security services are currently adhering to the constitutional provisions stated in articles 237 and 238. Also, while the spirit of article 246 of the constitution is, to refrain from political affiliations and to treat equally among the people and different groups, respecting the principles of Islam and human dignity, I do not see this currently happening [within the security services],” First Lieutenant Haleem stated.

“For the last 23 years [of my military service]; I have served this country under a solemn oath taken in the name of Allah, I do not see any way that I can carry out my duties as prescribed in the constitution and the military act, while in this position, therefore I request you to relieve me from my duties,” he concluded.

Former Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, who as a junior soldier was instrumental in defending the Maldives from the coup attempt of 1988 which saw 80 mercenaries from the Tamil militant group the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) launch a frontal assault on the Maldives’ military headquarters, issued a letter today over social media.

“My advice to the military officers is: ‘Do not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country’,” wrote Didi, who was the Male’ Area Commander during the 7 February 2012 controversial power transfer before resigning “prematurely” from his 32 year career on July 16, 2012.


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.


‘Al Andalus’ speech did not violate broadcasting code of ethics: Broadcasting Commission

The Broadcasting Commission has ruled that the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)’s televising of a sermon by Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim did not violate any regulations.

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

“We definitely do not consider [televising the sermon] as anti-campaigning against a particular candidate using religion. [But] around 11:35pm, because his talk was changing a little, we stopped the live [broadcasting],” Manik told the committee.

In a brief statement the Broadcasting Commission declared today that the state broadcaster had not violated the broadcasting code of ethics by airing the sermon.

In the sermon, titled ‘Al Andalus’, Sheikh Shameem drew comparisons between the Maldives and factors he claimed led to the collapse of the medieval Islamic state that occupied much of Spain, Portugal, Andorra and southern France.

“In the struggle among political parties to come to power, we are seeing dangerous parallels with the real reasons why Andalus fell: seeking help from non-Muslim leaders, bringing in their power and companies to our country. It is not prohibited to have non-Muslim labourers, but if we let any non-Muslim entities exert their power, even in business, over Muslims in our land, that is the end of us,” Shameem said.

“Some people tell us that despite supporting a certain politician, their faith cannot be changed, although they say they know [the politician] does not believe in Allah. I am very happy that there are people with such strong faith among us. It is indeed an extraordinary man who can hold onto his faith while being with a kafir, an infidel who commits sinful acts and uses intoxicating substances.

“However, he used to say there will be no way any other religion can be practised here, but his tune has changed. Today he says that despite churches being built, his faith will personally not change. That people of other religions should also be able to live here freely and be granted rights as Islam is a peaceful, just and caring religion. This is very true, but what he wants is a horrible result. He wants to challenge Allah about the justice in our religion.

“This country will have a dark future if we allow the police and army to be exposed to the training sessions given by non-Muslims, outright kafirs, in the guise of professional development. The kafirs will then have an opportunity to make the police and army hate Islam,” he preached.

Read the translation of the sermon