Parliament appointee to MBC board resigns from post

Parliament’s appointee to the Board of Directors of the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Nahula Ali has resigned from her position after deciding to contest as a council member for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Local media reported today that the parliament secretary general had confirmed that receipt of Nahlua’s letter of resignation.

Earlier this week, the Independent Institutions Committee said it was looking into whether Nahula could remain in her post after she decided to contest in the (PPM) council member election, according to media reports.

Member of Parliamentary Committee on Independent Institutions Rozaina Adam previously told Sun Online that Nahula’s interest in becoming a PPM council member raised questions over her impartiality in her role as board member for the MBC.

The MBC is an institution commissioned to ensure the media remains free of political, economic and financial influence. Both Television Maldives (TVM) and Dhivehi Rajjeyge Adu are run by the institution.

Following her resignation, Nahula has now decided to compete for PPM council membership next month, Sun Online has reported.


Decision to halt live programme not politically motivated, state broadcaster claims

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) Mohamed ‘Mondhu’ Asif has said that yesterday’s decision (December 19) to cease transmission of the live show ‘Thafaas’ was not politically motivated.

Speaking to Minivan News Today, Asif dismissed allegations circulating on social media alleging that the programme was halted following a direct order from Dr President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, claiming the decision was taken over a violation of “editorial policy”.

“I can confirm you that no order was sent from either President Waheed or any governmental authority. We are now an independent television station as under the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation Act,” he said.

Asif admitted that the programme had been halted during a live telecast, but claimed the decision was made over concerns that the show’s content had violated the station’s editorial policy.

“We had done that previously as well. As a principle, in a live television programme, if [the show’s content] violates the editorial policy set out by the company, we would usually halt the telecast of that programme,” he explained.

Asked if any action may be taken against members of staff over the issue, Asif explained that TVM had only decided to halt the yesterday’s live broadcast at present. He added that TVM management would need to assess in future how guests were briefed over what they could and could not speak about on the state broadcaster.

During the terminated broadcast, Feydhoo constituency MP Alhan Fahmy and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member and a local lawyer Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed had been invited to reportedly discuss current parliamentary issues.

Twitter response

Despite Asif’s claims that the show was taken off air in line with concerns over editorial policy, the host of the ‘Thafaas’ show, Ali Shamin, yesterday used his personal twitter account tweeted to claim – “I’m done with this, it’s all politics,”.

One of the guests, MP Alhan Fahmy responded to the tweet urging Shamin to “make it clear” for the public about what happened.

“[Please] make it clear to the public. [People] need to know what happened! [Don’t] worry about the job,” read MP Fahmy’s twitter response to Shamin’s tweet.

Speaking to Minivan News, Communications and Advocacy Manager of local NGO Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed Ibrahim said that the NGO had noticed that “an incumbent government had always had the opportunity to unduly influence the content of the state media [in the country]”.

Transparency Maldives had previously conducted a media monitoring programme back in 2011.

“Perhaps the new legislation may mean state influence may not be as extreme as was the case prior to the ratification of the legislation, but the ground reality is that an incumbent government has always had the opportunity to unduly influence the content of the state media,” Rasheed suggested.

When contacted by Minivan News today MP Alhan Fahmy said that he was very busy and had already given information about the matter to private broadcaster Raajje TV.

The MBC has been previously involved in a protracted legal battle against former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration over whether the executive – via the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) – or parliament should have responsibility for overseeing state media.

The MNBC was established by Nasheed to run the state media, removing its employees from the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). In 2010, the then-opposition majority parliament created MBC and demanded the transfer of MNBC’s assets to the new body, which Nasheed’s government refused to do, alleging political partiality on behalf of the MBC board.

Following the controversial transfer of power that saw President Mohamed Waheed Hassan take office in February, MBC was granted control of the state broadcaster.  On February 7, the channel – then called MNBC one – was renamed TVM.

Meanwhile, fellow state broadcaster Raajje Radio was re-branded as Voice of Maldives. TVM and Voice of Maldives were used as the names for the two channels during the autocratic 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


TVM and VTV to broadcast Euro 2012

State broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) and private Villa Television (VTV) station have been granted broadcasting rights to air European Football Championship Euro 2012, reports local media Haveeru.

Speaking at a ceremony held on Wednesday, Financial Controller of cable operator MediaNet Ahmed Nashid said the move would allow Maldivians access to watch the championship and would provide a “break from politics.”

The Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) have held regular protests calling for early elections since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, which the party alleges was through a coup d’état.

“All we see these days is politics. But the opportunity to watch a match will provide a break from politics,” Nashid said.

CEO of VTV Ibrahim Khaleel said the TV station would immediately start a countdown to the football championship to be held between June 8 and July 1.


MBC to hold talks after TVM appears on list of threats to Indian national security

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) is to hold meetings with the Indian High Commission in response to reports that Television Maldives (TVM), the Maldivian state broadcaster, has been labelled a threat to Indian national security on the website, reports local media.

“We are more concerned over it especially as it is the state television being labeled as a threat. As this is just a report published in the media, we want to verify the truth behind it through the relevant authorities,” Haveeru have reported Deputy President of MBC Mohamed Shaheeb as having said.

According to the website in question, the issue has been filed with the Indian Parliament and relates to the content broadcast on TVM.

TVM Chief Executive Mohamed “Mondhu” Asif has denied that the channel broadcasts content that could harm Indian security. It has been alleged that 24 other TV stations were receiving similar treatment from the Indian government.


MDP accuses state media of “blatant propaganda” in letter to Maldives Broadcasting Commission

The MDP intends to lodge a complaint against the current practices of the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) state media outlets, Television Maldives (TVM), and the radio station, Voice of Maldives (VOM).

In a letter, the MDP accused the MBC of violating the agreements mandated by the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) Act of August 2010 by producing biased content and not giving adequate exposure to all political groups.

TVM and VOM were, the MDP argued, “being blatantly used as propaganda outlets of the coup regime, while the ongoing peaceful political activities of the MDP are being sidelined with little regard to the MBC’s mandate and the nation’s laws under which the MBC is functional.”

“State media airwaves are being clogged incessantly with interviews, views, opinions, and press conferences detailing the regime’s vision by regime loyalist political parties,” MDP alleged.

“On March 6, MDP’s request to buy airtime to broadcast a crucial press conference by Maldives’ first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed was met with silence.”

The MDP also accused the group of allowing politicians from the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) unfettered access to TVM studios and editing booths in contravention of its independent credentials.

JP MP Abbas Adil Riza, named in the letter as one of the MPs seen at TVM, strongly denied the accusation. He was unaware of the complaint and said he did not wish to see the letter. Also named in the letter are the JP’s Ali Hashim and the DQP’s Adbulla Ameen.

The letter reads “MBC is legally bound and mandated to ensure impartiality and independence in its role as a public service provider”.

“According to Article 2 (c) of the Maldives Broadcasting Act the MBC must facilitate nationwide, equitable, and acceptable transmission and broadcasting. According to Article 3 of the Broadcasting Act the MBC is an independent commission of the State.”

The timing of this complaint appears to be related to the Corporation’s failure to respond to MDP requests for media coverage of a speech by former President Mohamed Nasheed on March 6. Copies of the letter were sent to the MBC as well as to the independent media watchdog the Media Council of the Maldives (MMC) on March 7.

The MMC’s duties as prescribed in the Maldives Media Council Bill, is to preserve media freedom and promote ethical practices, as well as to investigate any complaints filed.

Minivan News itself experienced difficulty when trying to contact the MBC for comment on the issues raised by the MDP.

After a group of police, military and opposition supporters stormed the state broadcaster on February 7, shortly after an assault on the military base in Republic Square, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government rebranded MNBC as TVM – the broadcaster’s title under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration.

MNBC was established by Nasheed to run the state media, removing its employees from the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). In 2010 the then-opposition majority parliament created MBC and demanded the transfer of MNBC’s assets to the new body, which the Nasheed’s government refused to do, alleging political partiality on behalf of the MBC board. Days after the events of February 7, TVM was handed to MBC by the new government.

After this takeover, Chairman of MBC Ibrahim Umar Manik expressed his commitment to run the state media with “impartiality” and within legal bounds.

“As stated in the law, we will operate the two stations as a public broadcaster by bringing independent news, information and programs,” Manik claimed.

Maldives Media Council

President of the Maldives Media Council Mohamed Nazeef said he was not yet aware of the MDP complaint although he stated that he would “be very interested” if it were to come to his attention.

His desk is the first place such complaints go to when received, at which point it is standard practice for the Council to attempt a resolution before the official investigative procedures are initiated.

A member of the Council’s Secretariat said no official complaints had been received in recent weeks although there had been a slight increase in the number of people making informal complaints in person.

Discussing the current condition of public media in the country, Nazeef said that he had “noticed an improvement” in the weeks since the Nasheed administration ended.

“[Public Broadcasters] can’t do the same thing as before. They have to give equal time to all political parties,” Nazeef said.

He said he believed that there was little difference between the Gayoom and the Nasheed eras, in terms of media impartiality.

“Television Maldives was same before [under Nasheed] as it had been for thirty years under Gayoom, apart from 2007 and 2008, when it was a little more lenient,” he said.

The most pressing concerns, in the opinion of the Council President, are the lack of social programming and need for better education in the sector. A typical area mentioned as being in need of improvement was investigative journalism.

“This is where the media fails in the past twenty years,” Nazeef continued, “most people are trained for private broadcasting.”

Nazeef recently discussed these issues with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which advocates a robust media as the key to sustaining democracy.


Government must guarantee safety and rights of journalists: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed strong concerns for media freedom in the Maldives’ following the release of strong evidence that police forces used firearm prohibited to their role to force open the station of Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) on February 7, 2012.

The station was overrun by security forces as violent clashes broke out across Male’, culminating in the resignation of then president Mohamed Nasheed “at gunpoint”, he has said. By early afternoon MNBC was re-branded as Television Maldives (TVM), its title under former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

MNBC’s former director general Adam Shareef described the situation to RSF.

Shareef said he had noticed that the situation on Male’ had become “serious”, and around 4:00am requested the Defense Minister to send more security to the station.

MNBC headquarters and some journalists were previously attacked during the opposition-led protests which began on January 16, 2012, when Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the military after attempting to block his own police summons. The government at the time backed their decision by citing the judge’s record of professional misconduct and blocking police operations, as well as holding suspects without evidence and releasing suspects with strong evidence against them, most notably an accused murderer who killed another person soon after his release.

Shareef said he was shocked when the Defense Minister “refused to send any security forces to MNBC. At that time I knew there as something wrong with the police and defense forces. We were in shock at the refusal, and we were waiting from the early morning until 7:30am. At 7:30 the security members had left their shift, so there was no security at MNBC.

“I was alone with my staff, and I ordered them to stay calm and cooperate with MNDF [Maldives National Defense Force],” he said.

Shareef explained that individuals aligned with the opposition came to the station in the late morning and requested that the station be signed over to their control. When he refused, Shareef was informed that Nasheed had stepped down and Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik had assumed control of the country.

“I said I hadn’t heard the news,” Shareef told RSF, pointing out that the confrontation took place before Nasheed had formally resigned at 1:00pm that day.

Shareef goes on to describe the violent take-over of the station, which left many of his staff in fear.

A video released yesterday corroborates Shareef’s account of the take-over. A police officer uses a gun to open the locked gates of the state broadcasting station, allowing dozens of police and military forces as well as civilians to rush the building where staff can be heard crying and shouting in fear.

Police in the Maldives are not issued firearms.

Noting that the Maldives ranks 73rd out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 RSF press freedom index, “Reporters Without Borders hopes that the Commonwealth ministerial mission, which is to investigate the circumstances of last week’s change of government, will also shed light on the takeover of MNBC, the use of threats and violence against certain journalists and media, and the threats to which several journalists continue to be exposed.”

Members of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have today signed a petition requesting parliament to acknowledge last Tuesday’s events as a coup; to bring those involved to justice; and to hold elections as soon as possible.

Since the station takeover TVM has filled its airtime with Disney movies and cooking shows, streaming pre-recorded programs even during the police force’s violent crackdown on a peaceful MDP march on February 8.

In a February 13 statement, RSF warned that Maldives media is in a precarious position amidst the political turbulence.

“The international community must take full account of the danger to the media and to freedom of information in the Maldives,” reads the statement. “For the moment, media coverage of the incidents taking place in this Indian Ocean archipelago is limiting the violence against journalists.”

Foreign media groups including Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters, AFP, India Express, the New York Times and Japan’s leading paper The Yomiuri Shimbun converged on Male’ on February 8, bringing the murky politics of the perceived island paradise into global focus.

“But, once the international community’s attention moves on, we fear that media personnel, especially those who are branded as ‘pro-Nasheed,’ could be exposed to reprisals by supporters of the new government or by the security forces, which may not be fully under the new government’s control,” RSF cautions.

It didn’t take long for Maldivians to wonder if they may be subject to similar rules of social behavior.

Following the crackdown in Male’, local media Raajje TV inaccurately reported that two MDP supporters had been killed. Islanders in six southern atolls responded with a firey attack on police stations, court houses and prosecutor general’s offices, leaving public facilities and legal records in ashes.

The next day, Male’-based media received reports opposition party supporters were leading police and military forces to the homes of MDP supporters, who were consequently beaten and arrested without charges.

In a previous article Minivan News investigated the claims. While the reported aggression appear to have calmed some citizens of Addu, Maldives’ southernmost atoll which reported the most severe damage, expressed concern that the quiet was temporary.

“We are not safe because we don’t know when again it will start,” said one man speaking to Minivan News outside Feydhoo’s smoldering court house.

Alif Fahumy Ahmed, whose brother-in-law was still detained in Gan’s burnt police station on February 11, was similarly watchful. “Things in Addu have calmed at the moment, but they may continue once HRCM and the reporters leave,” he said.


Police fired gun in takeover of MNBC, video reveals

Video footage taken during the storming of Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) on February 7 reveals that a police officer used a firearm to break down the gates of the station headquarters in capital Male’, allowing dozens of police and military forces (MNDF) as well as some civilians in plain clothes to forcefully take over the station.

According to Maldivian law police officers are not issued firearms.

Approximately two hours before former president Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office “under duress” in what his government has called a “coup d’état”, a group of rogue security forces armed with batons, iron rods, wooden planks and evidently firearms “hijacked” the state media station, forcing it to change to Television Maldives (TVM), its title under former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

A video obtained from an unidentified source captured the event from an upstairs window within the MNBC compound, looking down on the television station’s locked gates.

The video begins as tear gas canisters are thrown at a group of MDP activists attempting to protect the building outside the gate, billowing yellow smoke and forcing then to retreat from the area. A woman inside the MNBC headquarters screams, “Oh Mother! Mother!” as another comforts her, asking to “stop crying.”

Riot police with shields charge the gate as the tear gas clears, accompanied by several men who are not wearing uniforms. As the scene unfolds, a male voice is heard saying,  “Look there’s the police coming, they have guns”, while another man exclaims: “Oh no! That’s the bad police”.

The mob then attempts to break the heavy chain on the gates while a man inside shouts, “Oh my God, they’re opening [the gates], they’re opening”.

At the height of the attack on the gates, a uniformed police officer sticks a gun through the circular hole on the right-hand side of the gate and fires. Smoke from the weapon’s discharge floats up into the air. The crowd then bursts through the gates into the courtyard. Some of the men throw stones and one of the men, who isn’t wearing a uniform, is brandishing an iron rod in his hand. The mob then advances towards the main entrance of MNBC before the video cuts out.

“We felt trapped, kidnapped”

Minivan News spoke to some of the then-MNBC staff on duty inside the headquarters that morning, who recounted the “frightening experience” of February 7 on condition of total anonymity.

“They just stormed into the building and broke the doors and windows to force their way in. Some slapped the paper stacks and equipment off the tables. The first guy who came into the newsroom was a protestor and he ordered us to stop all the work we were doing. He kept on stomping his feet on the ground to frighten us and threatened to ‘finish us’ if we didn’t listen. So we stopped. We were all so scared,” one reporter recalled.

“In just a few minutes the whole place was filled with protesters shouting at us, police and MNDF took over the main control room. There were shouts and cries of girls everywhere. We felt trapped, kidnapped,” the reporter added.

“A policeman shouted that we [MNBC] have brought enough of what government wanted. Now its time for them to broadcast what they want,” another station employee claimed.

The employee added that they were ordered to patch through the VTV channel, owned by minority opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim. The nation watched VTV on state TV before the feed was cut off and came back on, re-branded as TVM.

Another staff member said that the security forces let the staff that wanted to leave the building exit, and assured them, “No harm will come to the rest”.

Newsroom sub-editor Ahmed Muhsin was taken home under police custody, another staff member told Minivan News.

“But we were surrounded by armed opposition protestors. We were scared for our lives,” the source continued. “The first anchor who went on air could not continue even because of the intimidation. So someone else had to take over”.

Police sub-inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has ordered an investigation into the events of February 7, and that police will not comment on the events of that day until the investigation is concluded.

Dr Waheed’s alleged involvement

MNBC Managing Director Adam Shareef told Minivan News that he was “advised to hide to guard his life” when the protestors stormed in threatening to attack Muhsin and himself for alleged alignment with Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“I was hiding inside the light room until the security forces assured me I would be given protection. When I came out Dr Waheed’s brother Ali Waheed was there. He shook my hands and said that he was there to take over MNBC on behalf of Vice President Dr Waheed. This was before Nasheed resigned.”

Shareef also claimed that Ali Waheed came earlier that morning asking to handover the state media but he refused. “I told him that MNBC had the authority to run the state media and we would not hand over it unless the security forces came. So that’s why they [police and MNDF] came with the protestors,” Shareef observed.

He said that he waited at the station to ensure the safety of his staff, while Muhsin was escorted home.

Several sources at the newsroom confirmed that members of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad party including Ahmed Faiz and Alim Shakoor, younger brother of newly appointed Attorney General and opposition-friendly lawyer Aishath Azima Shakoor, were in the news room “giving orders” that day.

Previously, Azima Shakoor represented parliament’s state broadcaster Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in a drawn out tug-of-war with state owned MNBC for control of the assets of the state broadcaster, formerly Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VoM).

Its also notable that after taking office, the first presidential decree passed by President Dr. Waheed was to transfer assets to MBC, although Nasheed’s administration had repeatedly contended that the MBC board is stacked with opposition supporters and that its attempt to control of MNBC is effectively a “media coup”.

Meanwhile, MNBC was criticised for favouring MDP.

State media liberated or hijacked?

The MNBC staff, who earlier spoke to Minivan News, insisted that “in the name of liberating state media, the police, MNDF and the protestors hijacked [MNBC]”.

“We know the lawful state broadcaster is MBC. But this is not the way they should take over. If the rule of law was respected as Dr Waheed promised in his first presidential address, he would not have let the security forces take control over us,” said a senior member of the MNBC staff.

Minivan News could not reach Maldives Broadcasting Commission at time of press.

The commission has however given a license to MBC, which is now preparing to take over management of the national broadcasting station’s assets, local media reports. President Waheed has replaced the MNBC board and tasked it with overseeing the transfer of assets to MBC, which the MDP has previously alleged has a board stacked with opposition figures.

Meanwhile, speaking to Minivan News, the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Hiriga Ahmed Zahir claimed that the organisation has not reacted to the take over of MNBC because the police were “enforcing the law”.

“MNBC was operating the state media unlawfully, despite repeated calls from us and court orders to hand it over to the parliament-created state broadcaster,” Zahir continued.

He claimed that MNBC was “abusing the state assets, and tax payer’s money” to make the state media a “propaganda machine” of MDP, in the non-existence of a fair editorial policy.

“I am not saying it was done in the most appropriate way. It was a chaotic situation. But we will always welcome bringing unlawful actions within the legal bounds. Police is the body to enforce the laws and I see no reason to object to the police taking over the state media to hand over it to the lawful body,” Zahir said.

He added that it would have been a problem if they had destroyed MNBC’s equipment or intimidated the staff, but said the organisation had not received any official complaints although some concerns have been raised informally.

Former National Security Advisor and former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal meanwhile observed that it looks “very strange” to see the police in the video firing a gun outside the MNBC office.

“It’s very strange to see. It’s very clearly seen in the footage that they were firing from the main outside gate inside [the MNBC compound] and our police force has never been issued with guns. The big question is how they got the guns. Evidently it was from the MNDF because they are the only people authorised to carry guns.”

He further added that the Maldives witnessed a “police mutiny turn into an armed mutiny” on February 7, which forced a democratically-elected president to resign.

“Any democratic country will not accept a government which used the police force and mutiny to forcefully resign a democratically-elected president. They have to condemn [the new administration], with this video footage and with all the torturing by the police. They should not accept the legitimacy of the government and should ask the people of the Maldives to decide who their president should be,” Faisal contended.

A photo circulating on Facebook apparently showing defected police and MNDF celebrating in the courtyard of the state broadcaster, after taking it over on Tuesday.

Civil Court orders MNBC to transfer assets and staffs to MBC

After months of dispute between the opposition and the government over control the state media, the Civil Court has finally ordered the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) to transfer all assets and staff to the newly-established Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

The tug-of-war began last year when the government transferred the assets and staff from Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM) to the 100 percent government-owned corporate entity MNBC.

The opposition-majority parliament subsequently created MBC and order the government to transfer MNBC’s assets and staff. MNBC has been labelled pro-government by critics, while proponents argue that as most other mass media is owned by senior opposition political figures and favours the opposition, the government had no alternative voice.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government will appeal the Civil Court’s ruling in the High Court.

“The MPs and the judiciary should consider that the MNBC is operated by a board and all of its assets are properties of the MNBC,” he said.

Zuhair contended that there were resorts belonging to MPs that were operated under the same structure as MNBC, and questioned whether they wished to set a precedent for the court-ordered transfer of all their assets to another person’s company made for the express purpose.

MBC was formed by the parliament last year in April and its board was also appointed by the parliament. The board is answerable to parliament which makes the MBC board politically influenced, the government has claimed.

After the parliament passed the legislation to ”free” the state media, expecting the government to transfer the frequency and assets, the government bluntly declined to transfer the assets.

”MNBC was re-branded and changed its name after two board members of Television Maldives (TVM) proposed their names for the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) board, but were dismissed from the parliament,” said opposition MP Ahmed Nihan at the time.

Nihan alleged that he was “certain” there was “a secret deal” made between MNBC and the government.

The opposition also held a series of protests for the freedom of state media before the issue was taken to the court.


Looming tug-of-war between parliament and executive over state broadcaster

The executive today signaled reluctance to hand control of state media over to parliament, potentially sparking a political tug-of-war over Television Maldives (TVM) and Voice of Maldives (VOM).

The state media outlets are currently operated by the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), a 100 percent government owned company established by executive decree.

However in April Parliament approved a law to establish a company called the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to operate the state media, with nine board members appointed and answerable to the parliament.

Today the parliament appointed nine members for the MBC board. Chairman of MNBC Mohamed “Madulu” Waheed and Managing Director Ibrahim Khaleel also proposed their names, but were dropped from the shortlist by parliament.

Out of the 29 names presented, MPs approved 18 names to be shortlisted and nine of the persons were appointed as the MBC board members.

“MNBC is a company established under a resolution by the president and all its assets and land also belong to the company under a contract,” said the President’s Political Advisor Hassan Afeef today at a press conference.

”Although the MBC has been established, the MNBC will continue operating the state broadcasters. I would like to note that TVM and VOM are both channels registered under MNBC and are assets of that company.”

President Mohamed Nasheed ratified the bill establishing the MBC in April, which was originally passed by Parliament on 6 April 2010.

The government said then that it wanted the corporation to be free from political and commercial influence, and to televise public service announcements and matters of the state (such as President Nasheed’s speeches) at no cost to the government.

However today Afeef said that if the MNBC did not wish to hand the assets to MBC, there was no way they could be transferred if the MNBC did not wish to.

“If the MBC was established for the government to operate, the government would have the power to appoint people for its board,” Afeef said. “The government did not establish MBC, it was the parliament.”

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair in April that the formation of a new public broadcaster “will be best for the general public”, and that MNBC’s assets would be transferred to the new corporation.

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom suggested at the time that President Mohamed Nasheed should “be very happy” with the way the bill was passed.

”Now the president can say he has no power over the media,” Mausoom said.

However government’s backtracking today suggest it may not be prepared to hand control of the state broadcasters to parliament so readily.