Attacked Raajje TV presenters allege “political motivation” behind assault

Two TV presenters working for private broadcaster ‘Raajje TV’ were assaulted yesterday whilst on the island of Hulhumale’, an attack the station has claimed is politically motivated.

Speaking to Minivan News, Qufthaq Ajeer claimed he and colleague Mohamed Jinah had been assaulted and threatened with sharp weapons on the island as a result of a political TV program they presented together.

‘’We were waiting in Hulhumale yesterday, I went there to get my bike,’’ said Qufthaq. ‘’At about 6:30pm, four men on two motorbikes came and attacked us.’’

Qufthaq said his colleague Jinah was stabbed in the back and he was hit in the eye.

“My colleague suffered a 7 inch-long, 2 inch-deep wound on his back,” he said.

Qufthaq alleged that the attacks were politically motivated.‘’They [the attackers] asked us to stop the TV program,” he claimed

The presenter also noted that a week ago, an unknown caller rang up Raajje TV’s Offices and warned the channel to stop broadcasting their TV program.

‘’We received death threats a week ago and I think this attack is related to the earlier threats,’’ said Qufthaq, who was also a former journalist at private radio station DhiFM.

Raajje TV CEO Ahmed Rafeeq told Minivan News today that the channel was extremely concerned by the attack, which had followed  a number of warnings previously sent to the broadcaster.

‘’We have been receiving several warnings recently and now that they have attacked one of us, the other journalists are scared and mentally affected,’’ Rafeeq said.

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) also condemned the attack on the two presenters, stating that it was against freedom of expression.

The MJA said it believed the attack had been designed to intimidate journalists and to obstruct the freedom of press and expression as guaranteed under the national constitution.

The association also called on authorities to bring the assailants to justice.

Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that police were presently investigating the case, but no arrests have been made so far.

‘’We questioned both of them and we are trying to identify the assailants,’’ Haneed said. ‘’No arrests have been made so far.’’

Pro-government political parties have previously alleged that Raajje TV was biased and working in favour of former president Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The station has actively covered MDP protests and rallies, and in several cases aired incorrect reports of fatalities which police later cited as a factor in the subsequent and widespread destruction of police property.

However, Raajje TV is not the only private media group to claim to have come under politically motivated attacks of late.

VTV attack

Last month, the offices of private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV) were attacked during confrontations between security forces and alleged anti-government protesters in Male’ on March 19.

VTV was briefly brought off air following the incident – an act claimed by the station’s owner to be tantamount to “terrorism”.  Local media bodies also criticised protesters for allegedly threatening journalists and media personnel covering the clashes.