Raajje TV alleges Maldives Broadcasting Commission warning “biased”

Raajje TV claims a warning issued to them late last week by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission was biased, given their lack of transparent procedures for determining code of conduct violations.

“The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) sent a letter to Raajje TV last Thursday (June 6) saying the news aired on 23 February 2013 violated their code of conduct,” Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Yamin Rasheed told Minivan News today (June 8).

“Raajje TV strongly believes the commission’s decision is biased and will appeal to Maldives Media Council (MMC), the highest authority,” Rasheed stated.

MBC investigated a complaint that Raajje TV “broadcast false information” when its news-ticker displayed information that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had called on its members to slaughter Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members, Sun Online reported.

The commission’s investigation concluded that Raajje TV violated the code of practice by “showing images, sounds or texts of content that might damage a person’s dignity or is demeaning in nature”, as stated in articles 3(a), 5(a) and (b), according to local media.

“The ‘caution’ [letter MBC issued] is a warning. If that repeats they will take actions within broadcasting law, which might include temporary suspension of Raajje TV’s broadcast licence,” Rasheed explained.

He believes that MBC’s investigative decision making process is bias, because there is no transparent procedure for determining [code of] conduct violations.

“It is not clear how they concluded these statements, there is no clear procedure, it is not publicly announced,” said Rasheed. “I don’t know how they came to that conclusion.”

“We trust our journalists to report what they hear and see as true, they report the facts,” he stated.

Regarding the February 23 broadcast in question, Rasheed explained that “PPM officials called the MDP a terrorist group at that rally, we have the recorded footage.”

“Yet we don’t know what the opposition submitted against us, we don’t know specifically what the MBC is concerned about [regarding the code of conduct],” said Rasheed.

Rasheed claimed that MBC had “done nothing” in regard to code of conduct violations committed by Television Maldives (TVM), Villa TV (VTV), DhiTV and their sister network DhiFM, which “shows their bias”.

“DhiTV and VTV are constantly harassing politicians, for example saying Nasheed is anti-religious and many other things against him. DhiFM has shown pornographic footage, while the state broadcaster TVM has shown anti-social footage related to Maldivian culture of couples kissing, which is illegal,” alleged Rasheed.

VTV is owed by resort tycoon and Judicial Services Commission (JSC) member, Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim.

DhiTV and DhiFM are predominantly owned by Champa Mohamed Moosa, a prominent businessman and resort owner in the Maldives.

In March 2013, MBC called for the Maldives Media Company, which owns DhiFM Plus, to air a statement of apology without any reservations from the station for violating the broadcasting code of conduct after allegedly airing pornographic content during a late night news show.

In July 2011, MBC reprimanded DhiFM for repeated use of “indecent language” during programmes aired by the radio station and simultaneously broadcast live by sister network DhiTV in its “visual radio” segment.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission, as well as its Vice President Mohamed Shahyb, were not responding to calls at time of press.

Maldives Media Council support

Raajje TV plans to appeal the MBC warning with the MMC on Sunday or Monday, according to Rasheed.

“The only thing we see from MBC is the intention to penalise media,” claimed Rasheed.

Conversely, Rasheed praised the MMC for their positive interactions with and support of free press in the Maldives.

“The media council is our parental body, was elected from within the media groups, and is more independent than the commission,” said Rasheed.

“They have a responsibility to protect our rights and regulations and are doing things for media freedom as well as giving us many training opportunities,” he continued.

“They are more all-encompassing in dealing with media because they deal with both print and broadcast journalism,” he added.

Rasheed hopes to receive MMC support in regard to the MBC warning issued, since they previously filed a case with the prosecutor general against the President’s Office for intentionally not cooperating with Raajje TV.

In April, the Civil Court ruled in favour of Raajje TV in its lawsuit against the President’s Office for barring the opposition-aligned television station from President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s press conferences and functions.