Over 325 complaints filed at Broadcasting Commission

A total of 327 complaints have been lodged to date with the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) concerning broadcasting content and licensing disputes.

In a message on the occasion of ‘Broadcasting Day’ yesterday, MBC Chair Mohamed Shaheeb explained that the regulator assesses content based on the broadcasting code of practice.

Of the 327 complaints, Shaheeb revealed that 126 complaints were filed in relation to broadcasting content while 201 complaints concerned licensing issues.

Shaheeb called on private broadcasters to “join hands” in an effort to “repair the country’s torn social fabric”.

He also praised the telethon organised by local media to raise funds for Palestinian victims affected by the Israeli military aggression in Gaza.

However, Shaheeb criticised private broadcasters for their inadequate response to training programmes organised by the commission.

He added that the commission was in the process of compiling a report based on monitoring of broadcast content during last year’s presidential election.

Moreover, fruitful discussions have taken with the relevant authorities regarding the possibility of lowering charges levied for electricity and telecommunication services offered to broadcasters. The fees were presently high as they were charged on commercial rates, the commission noted.


DhiFM Plus airs upside down photo of broadcasting commission chair

Private broadcaster DhiTV and sister network DhiFM Plus have responded to threats of action by the Broadcasting Commission regarding violations of the broadcasting code of practice by displaying an upside down photo of the commission’s chair, Mohamed Shaheeb.

The commission issued a stern warning yesterday of possible action against the broadcaster for repeatedly displaying upside down photos of Elections Commission (EC) members in late February.

As the commission had previously decided that the move contravened the broadcasting code of practice, the broadcasting regulator said in a statement yesterday that its members unanimously decided to issue a warning to Broadcasting Maldives Pvt Ltd – the company that operates DhiTV – under article 44(a)(2) of the Broadcasting Commission Act.

The upside down photo of Shaheeb on DhiFM’s visual radio channel – also aired on DhiTV during its downtime – is accompanied by a news ticker that reads, ‘Experts say that making such a harsh announcement while [we] have been apologising in compliance with the Broadcasting Commission’s instructions is a step backwards for democracy’.

Last month, the commission asked DhiFM Plus to publicly apologise for broadcasting an upside down photo of former EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek.

The commission noted at the time that the station had previously been advised that the upside-down content was in violation of the code of practice, instructing the private broadcaster to issue a statement of apology to be aired between 8:00pm and 10:00pm before March 26.

The station had been asked in February to cease broadcasting upside down photos pending the conclusion of an investigation by the commission.

Similar advice was given to the broadcaster in November last year after upside down photos of three EC members were shown with a caption alleging electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

In March, the Supreme Court stripped Thowfeek and EC Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz of their membership over charges of contempt of court, prompting DhiTV and DhiFM to resume airing their upside down photos.

Following the incident, the broadcasting commission sent a circular to all broadcasters noting that it had received complaints and appealed against the disrespectful use of photos.


Broadcasting commission asks DhiTV to stop using upside down photo of EC chief

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has today asked private TV station DhiTV and its sister company, the radio station DhiFM Plus, to stop using upside down images of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek.

In a statement issued on the MBC website, the commission asked the TV channel and the radio station – a pioneer of ‘visual radio’ in the Maldives – not to broadcast that content until the commission had concluded its investigation into the case.

MBC said that a letter had been sent today by commission President Mohamed Shaheeb advising the two stations not to broadcast anything in a way that it might encourage unrest, and to keep in mind that the parliament elections are ahead.

The Supreme Court has today launched a surprise trial against Thowfeek and his EC colleagues, using ‘sumoto’ proceedings to both initiate and preside over contempt of court hearings.

The president of MBC also advised the two stations to be aware of the code of practice established under the Broadcasting Act’s article 37.

MBC gave similar advise to the two stations in November after they again showed photos of three members of the Elections Commission – Thowfeek, Ahmed Fayaz, and Ali Mohamed Manik – upside down with a caption alleging that they had committed electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

Following the incident, MBC sent a circular to all broadcasters noting that complaints regarding the disrespectful use of photos had let to it taking action against media outlets for violating the broadcasting code.

CEO of DhiFM Masood Hilmy told newspaper Haveeru that the photo of the EC president was displayed after the Supreme Court had sent summons to the EC, but it had been removed upon MBC’s request.

Last month, MBC ordered both the Maldivian Democratic Party-aligned Raajje TV and the Jumhooree Party-aligned VTV to issue apologies for the content broadcast during the prolonged presidential election period.

While Raajje TV was found to have aired content defamatory to the Supreme Court, VTV was asked to issue an apology for material defaming the MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, MP Rozaina Adam, and EC President Thowfeek.


MBC requests government’s commitment to uphold media freedom

Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has requested President Abdulla Yameen include two points related to media freedom in his “first hundred days” plans – a series of objectives announced by government institutions to be achieved within the first hundred days of his presidency.

In a letter addressed to the President Yameen, MBC President Mohamed Shaheeb requested to that all cases filed against journalists and broadcasters be withdrawn and for the president and government institutions to sign the five-point pledge to uphold media freedom proposed by the commission.

He asked the president to make these two requests part of the hundred-day road map, suggesting said that doing so will show the new government’s level of commitment to ensure media freedom in the Maldives.

MBC’s five-point pledge was first formulated in 2013 during Dr Mohamed Waheed’s presidency. The commission had planned and announced an event for signing the pledge to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, although the event was later cancelled.

The “right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information, views and ideas” is enshrined in Article 28 of the constitution, as is the right to protect sources of information.

The five points of the pledge were as follows;

  • To be free from prejudice by giving fair and equal access to the media.
  • To ensure the safety of journalists,
  • To protect journalists from punitive measures and harassment,
  • To provide a conducive environment for journalists to do their jobs,
  • To enhance the role of media in a democracy by allowing free flow of information.

During President Waheed’s presidency, the Maldives saw a decline in press freedom, falling thirty places on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index to 103 rd.

RSF noted that, following the events of 7 February 2012, the Maldives witnessed violence and threats against journalists, including the first attempted murder of a journalist.

“Many journalists have been arrested, assaulted and threatened during anti-government protests,” reported the press freedom NGO.

President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was a coalition partner in the Waheed government, with party members holding various senior government posts. Yameen’s Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was Home Minister under Waheed, at the time describing the opposition MDP aligned ‘Raajje TV’ as an “enemy of the state”.

Raajje TV faced the most discrimination and violence during this period – one prominent journalist was seriously injured in an attack in February last year, before the station’s headquarters were burned down last October in a premeditated arson attack.

The destruction of Raajje’s studio brought international condemnation, with particular criticism reserved for the police’s failure to prevent the attack. The Police Integrity Commission last month recommended prosecution of two officers in relation to their negligence on the night of the attack.

Shortly after President Yameen’s inaugration, police sent a case involving senior officials RTV for criminal prosecution regarding the broadcasting of a report critical of the Supreme Court. Both MBC and the Maldves Media Council (MMC) – independent institutions tasked with media regulation – have expressed concern over the matter.