Civil Court orders MNBC to transfer assets and staffs to MBC

After months of dispute between the opposition and the government over control the state media, the Civil Court has finally ordered the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) to transfer all assets and staff to the newly-established Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

The tug-of-war began last year when the government transferred the assets and staff from Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM) to the 100 percent government-owned corporate entity MNBC.

The opposition-majority parliament subsequently created MBC and order the government to transfer MNBC’s assets and staff. MNBC has been labelled pro-government by critics, while proponents argue that as most other mass media is owned by senior opposition political figures and favours the opposition, the government had no alternative voice.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government will appeal the Civil Court’s ruling in the High Court.

“The MPs and the judiciary should consider that the MNBC is operated by a board and all of its assets are properties of the MNBC,” he said.

Zuhair contended that there were resorts belonging to MPs that were operated under the same structure as MNBC, and questioned whether they wished to set a precedent for the court-ordered transfer of all their assets to another person’s company made for the express purpose.

MBC was formed by the parliament last year in April and its board was also appointed by the parliament. The board is answerable to parliament which makes the MBC board politically influenced, the government has claimed.

After the parliament passed the legislation to ”free” the state media, expecting the government to transfer the frequency and assets, the government bluntly declined to transfer the assets.

”MNBC was re-branded and changed its name after two board members of Television Maldives (TVM) proposed their names for the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) board, but were dismissed from the parliament,” said opposition MP Ahmed Nihan at the time.

Nihan alleged that he was “certain” there was “a secret deal” made between MNBC and the government.

The opposition also held a series of protests for the freedom of state media before the issue was taken to the court.


MNBC journalist suffers gash to hand in knife attack

A journalist with the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) has been released from hospital after suffering a two-inch gash on his hand in a knife attack early this morning.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that Mohamed Sodiq was attacked by two men on a motorcycle.

“We received a report that he was being treated and the attack was not serious, Shiyam said, adding that police were currently unable to say whether the attack was connected with Sodiq’s work, gang-related, or a random assault.

Minivan News understands that Sodiq works primarily as a sports reporter.

Head of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, said that Sodiq was attacked after leaving his office at 3:30am in the morning, while on his way home.

“We have met with the police commissioner and voiced our concern, not only about the safety of journalists but people in society as a whole,” Hiriga said, adding that a lack of security would affect the work of journalists.


“Cucumber” censored in Islamic Foundation’s TV ad

The Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) has censored the word ‘cucumber’ from an advertisement produced by the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives (IFM), due to the potential for public embarrassment.

At the beginning of the advertisement, Sheikh Fareed asks viewers whether Allah created “men or the cucumber” for women.

President of Islamic Foundation, Ibrahim Fauzy, claimed the statement was a voice clip from a sermon Sheikh Fareed delivered in 2002 in response to an article published in a Maldivian magazine, which reportedly claimed that cucumbers were “better” than men.

“After that sermon he was arrested, but it was a response to a statement in the magazine,’’ Fauzy said. “The magazine was registered with the then Information Ministry.’’

Fauzy said that when the word cucumber was removed from Fareed’s statement, it “no longer makes any sense.”

“They quit broadcasting the ad without even informing us. We noticed that the ad did not appear last night,’’ he said. “We went to the MNBC station to ask about it and only then did why learn why this was the case.”

Chief Executive of MNBC Mohamed Asif told local media that the advertisement had to be censored because of an “embarrassing phrase’’, and that the station had begun reviewing the matter after removal of the offending vegetable.

The advertisement was for Sheikh Fareed’s ”Farewell” sermon, to be delivered tomorrow night at the Artificial Beach.


Wataniya confirms appointment of MNBC chief as new CEO

Mobile operator Wataniya has confirmed the appointment of former head of the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), Ibrahim Khaleel, as the company’s new CEO in the Maldives.

“The Board of Directors have welcomed iconic Maldivian figure, [Ibrahim] Khaleel to take the helm as we push forward in our voyage,” Watanyia said in a statement.

Khaleel, the company said, had “years of experience in the media industry, most recently as the charismatic Managing Director of MNBC.”

“Mr Khaleel has the strong professional credentials and proven ability to lead performance-driven teams. He brings with him a ‘war chest’ of local experience, especially in terms of rich media content and customer interactive media.”

Khaleeel will succeed outgoing Chief Operations Officer (COO) Abraham Smith, on March 1.


Opposition commence series of protests demanding freedom of state media

Members of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyihtunge Party (DRP) last night commenced the first in what they claimed was series of planned protests for the freedom of state media, in particular the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), which they accuses of being subject to government influence.

The protest was organised by the party’s Youth Wing, led by DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf. Former Deputy Leader of the DRP prior to his dismissal, Umar Naseer, was also heading the protest.

The opposition activists first gathered near the artificial beach before moving outside the MNBC studios in Galolhu ward.

Although the protest was supposed to be a peaceful gathering, confrontations erupted between opposition activists and a group of people who appeared from the nearby Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) head office.

”The ‘vigilant group’ from MDP came out of their head office while we were raising our voice in front of MNBC, and attempted to create violence,” said DRP MP Ahmed Nihan. ”Their faces are very familiar to us, we know them very well, they have been jailed several times and they have a number of criminal records.”

The confrontation was controlled by the police at its initial stage, and nobody was injured according to Nihan.

”At 11:20pm, we concluded the protests, but this is not the end, we will continue protesting,” he said. ”We know the government will be waiting for an opportunity to arrest us so that it will weaken our local council campaign, so bearing that in our mind we will continue the protests.”

He also alleged that MNBC did not cover the opposition protests because they were busy interviewing a government minister when the protest was going on outside.

”Later at the news they spoke about the protests and criticised us – they don’t even have time to broadcast the voice of citizens anymore,” he added.

Nihan further claimed that there were “some leaders” in the DRP ”who are very afraid to raise the voice of the people – all they do is sit at home and watch us protest while taking the credit for our work.”

MDP spokesperson Ibrahim Haleem denied that the group of people who attacked DRP activists were MDP members.

”MDP is too educated and civilized a party to do such things, they were not MDP supporters,” Haleem claimed. ”Maybe they thought they were MDP supporters because our head office is located near MNBC.”

He said that there were many citizens who were “very concerned” that former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had returned to politics, and also very concerned that former DRP Deputy Leader Umar Naseer “is still leading DRP protests despite being expelled from the party.”

Media tug-of-war

A political tug-of-war over Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM) erupted in July 2010, after the executive signaled reluctance to hand control of state media to new body created by the opposition-majority parliament.

The state media outlets are operated by the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), a 100 percent government owned company established by executive decree.

However in April parliament approved a law to establish a company called the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to operate the state media, with nine board members appointed by and answerable to parliament.

Serving Chairman of MNBC Mohamed “Madulu” Waheed and Managing Director Ibrahim Khaleel had proposed their names to the new MBC board, but were dropped from the shortlist by parliament.

“MNBC is a company established under a resolution by the president and all its assets and land also belong to the company under a contract,” observed the President’s Political Advisor – now Home Minister – Hassan Afeef in July.


MJA condemns protesters’ blockade of journalists

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has said that two journalists and a cameraman from the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) were verbally attacked and obstructed from covering a protest by the Adhaalath Party in Male’ last Friday .

The MJA has claimed that protesters had been found to have deliberately obstructed MNBC staff, as well as allegedly “verbally attacking”  its journalists.

”As freedom of gathering and freedom of journalism are rights guaranteed under the constitution, any act that obstructs from gaining these rights are not acceptable,” said MJA.  “And we condemn any person that encourages such actions.”

The MJA said that despite any considered bias in MNBC’s broadcasts, ”we call on everyone not to obstruct the work of any journalists working in MNBC, and it is not something this organisation will support.”

During Friday afternoon, the Adhaalath Party held a protest against the government’s decision to transfer all the students to the land of EPS School until the new Arabiyya School building was finished.

Arabiyya school was closed after cracks in the building’s wall led to it falling, a development which was linked to the structure’s age.

Some students were forced change to other schools because the capacity in the building they were transferred was inadequate for all the students.

However, parents and students were unhappy because of a wish to study in Arabic.  Arabiyya is the only such school in the country thought to offer such a service, according to protesters.


DQP accuses government of seizing state media

The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has claimed the government has “captured and rebranded” the state media, the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between parliament and the government over which institution should have jurisdiction over the state broadcasters.

“Equal opportunity from state media is one of the basic characteristics of democracy,’’ said a statement issued by the DQP. “There is no one who would dispute that the most important [component] of a steady democracy is establishment of a free media.’’

The party accused the government of seizing the the assets of Television Maldives and Voice of Maldives, and refusing to transfer the assets to the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which was established by the parliament to monitor the state media.

The party further claimed that the government was seeking to “mislead” people by rebranding the state broadcasters’ parent company to the ‘Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation’ (MNBC).

“This reveals the characteristics of a government that is uncivilised, stubborn and dictatorial,” the DQP statement said, concluding with a prayer “to protect [the country] from this kind of leadership.”

DQP claimed that when the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in the opposition, they were “always accusing the then government of misusing the state media.”

‘’As a result, MDP in their manifesto wrote in bold letters that they would establish a free media,’’ the statement said.

“It proves that MDP also wished for independent media before they came into power, however today we are witnessing that MDP has failed to fulfill their own pledges stated in their manifesto.’’

“After the bill on Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) was passed in the parliament and the board was appointed, the government realised that the board members were not the type of people that would stick to anything the government did, and they forgot what they had written in their manifesto,’’ DQP claimed. “Now the government is trying to prevent Voice of Maldives and Television Maldives from becoming independent.’’

MDP parliamentary group leader and MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik said that historically DQP had been against the MDP manifesto, but was now supporting it self-interestedly in parliament’s bid to take over state media.

“To me it’s a joke that all these days they have been against our manifesto, and then suddenly they point at it for their self-interest,’’ said Moosa, accusing the DQP of dictatorship in turn.


Looming tug-of-war between parliament and executive over state broadcaster

The executive today signaled reluctance to hand control of state media over to parliament, potentially sparking a political tug-of-war over Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM).

The state media outlets are currently operated by the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), a 100 percent government owned company established by executive decree.

However in April Parliament approved a law to establish a company called the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to operate the state media, with nine board members appointed and answerable to the parliament.

Today the parliament appointed nine members for the MBC board. Chairman of MNBC Mohamed “Madulu” Waheed and Managing Director Ibrahim Khaleel also proposed their names, but were dropped from the shortlist by parliament.

Out of the 29 names presented, MPs approved 18 names to be shortlisted and nine of the persons were appointed as the MBC board members.

“MNBC is a company established under a resolution by the president and all its assets and land also belong to the company under a contract,” said the President’s Political Advisor Hassan Afeef today at a press conference.

”Although the MBC has been established, the MNBC will continue operating the state broadcasters. I would like to note that TVM and VOM are both channels registered under MNBC and are assets of that company.”

President Mohamed Nasheed ratified the bill establishing the MBC in April, which was originally passed by Parliament on 6 April 2010.

The government said then that it wanted the corporation to be free from political and commercial influence, and to televise public service announcements and matters of the state (such as President Nasheed’s speeches) at no cost to the government.

However today Afeef said that if the MNBC did not wish to hand the assets to MBC, there was no way they could be transferred if the MNBC did not wish to.

“If the MBC was established for the government to operate, the government would have the power to appoint people for its board,” Afeef said. “The government did not establish MBC, it was the parliament.”

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair in April that the formation of a new public broadcaster “will be best for the general public”, and that MNBC’s assets would be transferred to the new corporation.

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom suggested at the time that President Mohamed Nasheed should “be very happy” with the way the bill was passed.

”Now the president can say he has no power over the media,” Mausoom said.

However government’s backtracking today suggest it may not be prepared to hand control of the state broadcasters to parliament so readily.


MNJA condemns threats against two journalists covering Addu protest

The newly-formed Maldives National Journalist Association (MNJA) has claimed that two journalists were threatened and attacked while covering a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led protest in Addu Atoll on Friday night.

The MNJA claimed a journalist from Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) and a journalist from daily newspaper Haveeru were attacked and threatened, and that pictures taken by the journalists were deleted by the protesters.

MNJA expressed regret that DRP Vice President Ibrahim Shareef was leading the protest and took no action against the incident.

However, Vice president of DRP Ibrahim Shareef said he was “not surprised” by the reports.

”MNJA is a organisation containing a majority of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters,” Shareef said, ”so they will say stuff like that about us.”

He condemned the MNJA for “misleading people.”

The Haveeru journalist allegedly attacked that night, Ahmed Arsham, said that the protesters became angry at them because they were taking pictures of the protesters damaging the name board of the Addu province office.

Arsham said that he and a TVM reporter were forced away from the incident.

”They grabbed the camera lense and broke it,” he said.

On March 8 a DhiTv Journalist and cameramen was forced out from a Maldivian Democratic Party rally.