Sacked TVM reporter to be reinstated

The employment tribunal has ordered the state TV to reinstate a reporter who was sacked unlawfully in February and ordered a payout of MVR 100,800 ($6536) as compensation.

Nasrulla Haadhy, a long time employee of Television Maldives (TVM), was dismissed when he refused a transfer to a bureau in southern Addu City.

“I was sent to the Addu City bureau, but there was no office there. They also did not give me food and salary allowances that were provided to others who worked out of Male’ City. Their reason was that my wife is from Addu City. I refused, and then they dismissed me,” he said.

Nasrulla now works at privately-owned Channel 13.

“I intend to return to the job. I worked there because I loved to work there and I have no problem with the management. I just disagreed with two people from the senior management,” he said.

In March, a TV Anchor Ali Shamin was dismissed from TVM after he alleged the station was biased in its coverage of political unrest triggered by the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

A senior journalist Mohamed Afsal was demoted in the same month after he criticized the criminal court for refusing to let journalists leave the court premises during a break in between hearings in Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

Minivan News understands Afsal was reinstated to his former position when he threatened to file charges at the Employment Tribunal.

The government in April seized control of the state TV and radio stations after dissolving the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation through a new law.

Ruling party MPs appointed five members proposed by President Abdulla Yameen to the new Public Service Media (PSM) board without interviewing them.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called a move an attack on press freedom and described the PSM as a “state mouthpiece.”

Umar Manik, the chairman of the former board, was the only incumbent who was appointed to the new board.

Staff at the PSM have long complained of favoritism and lack of independence in successive governments.

Some staff who spoke to Minivan News today said the new board had promised changes.

“We have always complained about favoritism and discrimination. The new board promised change but it is still the same,” a female reporter who wished to remain anonymous said.

Another senior journalist, however, said some journalists who were deliberately left without work are now included.

“The new board has included those who were isolated over disputes and is encouraging us to work together,” he said.


Government takes control of state media

The government has seized control of the state television and the radio stations through a new law, in a move journalists and the opposition say will undermine press freedom in the Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen today ratified the Public Service Media Act and dissolved the old Maldives broadcasting corporation and its five member board.

The president has proposed seven individuals to a new governing board, who are expected to gain approval from the ruling party dominated parliament. Umar Manik, the chairman of the former broadcasting corporation board, is the only incumbent who will sit on the new board.

Others nominated include Ibrahim Khaleel, CEO of private Villa TV, Ikram Abdul Lateef, former official at Villa TV, and Aiminath Shayan, a TV presenter and the wife of a ruling party activist.

A parliamentary committee today approved the nominations without an interview.

A senior editor who wished to remain anonymous said the new law is an attempt by the government to take control of the public broadcaster.

“The new law does not accept the concept of a public broadcaster. It will now simply act as a mouthpiece for the government,” he added.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) says the new law is aimed at spreading “government propaganda.” Opposition MPs continued their daily protests inside the parliament during the vote.

The opposition has been protesting since Majlis reconvened on March 2 over the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges. The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has pushed through several pieces of legislation without significant debate amidst protests.

According to parliament minutes, PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed during a brief debate on the new bill said a new body to govern state media is necessary as the former broadcasting corporation had provided coverage of the campaign to free Nasheed.

“But all the events, overseas trips of the president and the services the government is providing each and every day is completely ignored by the state media,” he said.

The new law also requires the state to distribute a printed daily newspaper and use social media to disseminate programmes.

“The law requires public service media to establish and run their news and programs through social media. This is an attempt to spread propaganda at all levels of the media,” said MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy.

The managing editor of local daily Haveeru, Ismail Naseer, expressed surprise at the decision to start a government newspaper saying: “Even in other countries, we don’t see the state distributing a printed newspaper. If you look at it newspapers are a thing of the past, this is the era of digital journalism. So I don’t understand why the public media service has to run a print edition.

“Also the cost of running a newspaper will be very expensive. And I believe if the state is running a paper it has to be made available for every person including the people in the atolls. We have been in this business for 35 years and still find that task to be impossible.”

Former chairman of the broadcasting corporation, Umar Manik, however, defended the new law saying it would improve the day to day running of the state media.

“I take this as a positive move to further improve the public broadcaster. We were not influenced before and I am very confident that we will not be influenced by the government in the future as well,” he said.


TVM anchor sacked after alleging state broadcaster bias

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) sacked journalist Ali Shamin on Thursday (March 5) following a tweet in which he alleged the state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) was biased in its coverage of the recent political unrest.

The news anchor was suspended on February 23 for allegedly breaching confidentiality policies and undermining public trust in the institution.


TVM anchor suspended after tweet alleging state broadcaster bias

A TV anchor with the state broadcaster Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has been suspended following a tweet in which he alleged state run Television Maldives (TVM) was biased in favor of the government in covering recent political unrest.

TVM’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Mohamed Jinah, sent a letter to Ali Shamin on February 23, stating he had been suspended until further notice.

Jinah alleged Shamin had violated MBC staff code of conduct and breached policies on confidentiality. His tweet also undermined public trust in the state broadcaster, the letter said.

Shamin subsequently said he had been punished because of his tweet, but that the majority of his colleagues agreed with his stand.

The tweet came amidst heightened political tension withe the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday and the arrest of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of terrorism on February 10.


MBC, broadcasting commission summoned to parliamentary committee over televising “politicised” religious sermon

A religious sermon televised live on Television Maldives (TVM) was interrupted for violating the state broadcaster’s guidelines, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik told a parliamentary sub-committee today.

The MBC chairman along with members of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were summoned before the Independent Institutions Committee following complaints by MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that the sermon by religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

“We definitely do not consider [televising the sermon] as anti-campaigning against a particular candidate using religion. [But] around 11:35pm, because his talk was changing a little, we stopped the live [broadcasting],” Manik was quoted as saying by local media.

The state television decided to approve the live broadcast after considering whether it involved either a politician or political party and after determining if the Islamic Ministry had authorised the sermon, Manik explained.

Asked by MPs whether he had heard the Sheikh’s criticism of the MDP’s guest house policy, Manik said MBC will evaluate the content of the sermon and take measures.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam, a member of the sub-committee, explained that the complaints alleged that the religious scholars politicised the sermon titled ‘Andhalus,’ which MDP MPs contended resembled negative campaigning more than a religious sermon.

Rozaina said that MBC Chairman Manik told the committee that the MBC did a background check on the two sheikhs that delivered the sermon to determine if they had previously been in any political parties or if they were affiliated with any political party. Manik claimed that the background check showed that the sheikhs were not involved in political activities.

According to Rozaina, MDP MP Ali Waheed in the meeting noted that Sheikh Shameem had recently visited his constituency and told the people of the area that MDP would kill him if former President Mohamed Nasheed was re-elected and openly campaigned against the party’s candidate.

Rozaina observed that Sheikh Shameem last night talked against MDP policies such as introducing mid-market tourism but did not reflect on more important issues in terms of religion such as murder, gang violence and drugs.

“The MBC Chairman told the MPs that they cut the live feed when the Sheikhs speech was getting politicised,” Rozaina said. “But I don’t know if they actually cut the live feed.”

The sermon last night was organised by NGO Salaf, attended by senior Adhaalath Party members and broadcast live on all local television channels with the exception of MDP-aligned Raajje TV.

The sermons were delivered by Salaf preachers Sheikh Adam Shameem and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer under the title “The Fall of Andalus (Spain).”

Advertisements on social media stated that “the fall of Andalus (Spain) is an event Muslims will never forget. Why did it happen? What lead to the fall of this great Muslim state and what lessons can we draw from this. We present to you ‘Andalus’ by Sheikh Adam Shameem and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer.”


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.


Maldives Broadcasting Corporation schedules presidential debate for September 1

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has announced that a debate between rival presidential candidates will be broadcast via state media on September 1 this year.

MBC Managing Director Mohamed Shafeeq Mahmoud told local media that efforts were underway to secure the participation of the four key candidates presently expected to contest the presidential election, which has been scheduled for September 7.

These participants are expected to be President Dr Mohamed Waheed; Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MP Abdullah Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and MP Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhoree Party (JP).

Shafeeq told Sun Online that in the build up to the debate, state television and radio would provide airtime for candidates to broadcast information on their campaigns from July.

Television Maldives (TVM) is expected to broadcast four separate live programmes, each focused on a single candidate that will include the opportunity for the public to ask questions, he said.


GIP-DRP coalition not a third way; “two men with no other way”: Nasheed

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP) were forced to form a coalition to contest the upcoming presidential election out of necessity, former President Mohamed Nasheed has said, contending that the parties lacked grassroots support and comprehensive policies to represent “a third way” for voters.

Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) Thursday night, Nasheed reiterated that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with a presidential system of government.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate stated that the public wanted political parties to present policies that could deliver job opportunities, public transport, better healthcare and education, a higher standard of living and “a way to overcome anxiety over paying water, electricity and phone bills.”

“I do not see a citizen who wants ‘another way.’ What is the path to deliver this way [to development]? We do not hear [political parties] talking about that,” Nasheed said.

“We are presenting one path to that [development]. We believe MDP’s policies will bring prosperity to the people. I do not see this third way you referred to as ‘a way.’ I see it as two men with no other way. That is not a political philosophy,” he said.

Coalition agreements were made by politicians who wanted “power” in terms of cabinet posts and influence in the government, said Nasheed, observing that the parties in the current ruling coalition have yet to offer any policies.

Third way

Announcing its decision to back Dr Waheed’s presidential bid last week, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said that the party believed voters should have a third alternative to what he contended were the “hardline and extreme” ideologies of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the MDP.

“If the parties supporting President Waheed, DRP and other parties contest the 2013 presidential election separately, we believe that the vote will be split, the Maldivian people will not have a real opportunity, and there will be a chance for the past to be revived,” Thasmeen said at a press event on Sunday (May 12), referring to the three-year rule of MDP and the preceding 30-year reign of PPM figurehead, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The DRP believed that “moderate” parties should join an alliance united behind President Waheed as a third option to MDP and PPM, said the MP for Kendhoo in Baa Atoll.

Earlier this year, the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party both announced their intention to join a coalition with President Waheed’s GIP.

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef told Minivan News last week that in the absence of a strong coalition, the PPM could face MDP in a second round run-off and “those of us in the middle ground would be forced to support the MDP.”

The PPM was a party that belonged to “one family, or a supreme leader,” Shareef said.

Meanwhile, responding to Nasheed characterising the coalition parties as “empty shells,” DRP Leader Thasmeen and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told local media today that the criticism showed the former president’s “concern” with the challenge posed by the coalition.

Masood claimed that the combined strength of numbers in Dr Waheed’s coalition would outstrip both the PPM and MDP before the election scheduled for September 7.

Dr Waheed’s GIP currently has 3,930 registered members while the DRP has 21,411 members, according to the Elections Commission (EC).

The MDP has 45,666 members followed by the PPM with 22,383 members. The two largest parties are also respectively majority and minority party in parliament.

Dr Waheed’s GIP does not have a single MP of the 77 in parliament or a single councillor out of more than 1,000 elected representatives on local councils.

2008 ‘Watan Edhey’ coalition

In his TVM appearance, Nasheed shed light on the rapid disintegration of the MDP-led coalition that took office in November 2008, agreeing that the power-sharing experience was “bitter.”

In the second round run-off in October 2008, MDP candidate Nasheed was backed by third placed candidate Dr Hassan Saeed and fourth placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP), which was allied with the Adhaalath Party (AP) at the time.

Gasim however resigned as home minister 21 days into the MDP government while Dr Saeed resigned as special advisor after the first 100 days. The Adhaalath Party remained in government in control of the Islamic Ministry, but decided to sever its coalition agreement in late 2011 following a change of leadership.

Asked why the coalition fell apart, Nasheed first noted that Dr Saeed backed the MDP “unconditionally” and without a formal agreement.

“But after winning the election, [Saeed] secured posts for Dr [Ahmed] Shaheed and Dr [Mohamed] Jameel and secured positions in some government-owned companies for their people,” Nasheed alleged.

Gasim’s Jumhooree Party also secured cabinet posts, he added, stressing that all other parties agreed to endorse the MDP manifesto and implement its policies.

“The policies include, for example, public-private partnerships (PPP), opening up fishing,” he said. “Opening up fishing was a big problem for some people. And developing the airport and our other public-private partnerships were unacceptable to some people. And striking at resorts became completely unacceptable to some people. They felt if there was a strike at a resort, riot police should be sent immediately to put a stop to it.”

On November 30, 2008, police clashed with about 200 striking employees at the ‘One and Only’ Reethi Rah resort. Police were sent to the island by Home Minister Gasim at the request of the resort management.

Nasheed said that the “regrettable incident” occurred while he was in Fuvahmulah.

TVM visit

Nasheed’s appearance on the Raajje Miadhu programme marked the first time the former president has featured on the state broadcaster since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

On February 7, the main compound of the now-defunct Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) was taken over by mutinying police and soldiers almost two hours before Nasheed’s resignation.

After briefly broadcasting live feed of Gasim’s Villa TV, the MNBC brand name was changed to TVM, its title under former President Gayoom.

Nasheed’s visit to the state broadcaster on Thursday night meanwhile prompted a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts by TVM staffers.


NDA head calls for drug smugglers to receive death penalty

National Drug Agency (NDA) Chairperson Lubna Zahir has called for individuals found to be importing illegal narcotics into the Maldives to face the death penalty, local media has reported.

Speaking on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM), Lubna was reported as saying  that the death penalty should be imposed for those who bring drugs into the country, adding that it needs to be in the same category as murder.

The comments were made after the recent deaths of a number of individuals who had taken a fake version of LSD circulated in the Maldives.

“We can only prevent drugs from coming into the Maldives by implementing the death penalty against them. Importing drugs is not a less serious crime,” Lubna was quoted by the Sun Online news service as telling the state broadcaster.  “One solution to this is to implement the death penalty against those who bring in drugs and commit murder.”

Lubna requested parliament to include the death penalty as the most severe punishment for drug smugglers, when passing relevant laws.