Presidential candidate Gasim has no plans to boycott TVM

Presidential candidate Ibrahim Gasim has no plans to boycott national broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM), despite media reports last week suggesting his Jumhoree Party (JP) was considering such a move.

“Gasim would never do anything like that. We have no plans to boycott TVM,” said JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal.

Ajmal also confirmed that the JP’s leader would be participating in the upcoming presidential debate, due to air on TVM on September 1. Competing parties had claimed that talk of a boycott was a pre-planned attempt to “dodge” the debate.

JP deputy leader Ilham Ahmed last week told local media that the JP would be considering a boycott of the station after TVM presenter Liza Laurella asked Gasim a series of personal questions in what he interpreted as an attempt to damage his reputation.

“This was done with the intention of demeaning a person under a systematic plan. We don’t believe that this could have been done under press freedom,” Ilham explained to reporters from Haveeru. “We have seen TVM going after Gasim.”

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) defended its station, telling local media that Gasim’s TVM interview was conducted within its editorial policy.

The interview with Gasim was the first of a series of programs titled ‘Siyaasath’ (‘policy’) featuring all four presidential hopefuls in discussion of their respective parties’ policies.

The program concluded last night with the interview of former president and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

Reflecting on all four interviews, Ajmal alleged that all candidates had not received equal treatment from the host.

“We are not happy with the way Liza handled it. Maybe [that approach] is okay in Europe, but not in the Maldives,” he said.

Ajmal noted in particular Liza’s tendency to point her finger at Gasim during the interview: “It was very disrespectful.”

The ‘siyaasath’ episode featuring current President Dr Mohamed Waheed was singled out as an example of unequal treatment, with Ajmal describing his interview as “very mild” in comparison.

“All interviews should have been equally harsh,” he added.

The JP’s criticism of the show were dismissed as “baseless” by the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan, whose candidate Abdulla Yameen appeared on ‘siyaasath’ last Thursday.

“The PPM believe Liza did quite well… we understand there will be those types of questions in a hard talk program like this,” said Nihan.

His sole criticism of the program concerned a lack of focus, with what he felt was an excessive time spent discussing the past at the expense of debating policies for the future.

Nihan did however acknowledge that this problem had been consistent in all four interviews.