Raajje TV and VTV ordered to apologise for defamation

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has ordered private broadcasters Raajje TV and Villa TV (VTV) to apologise for defamatory material and ordered the stations to broadcast live events with a delay to minimise future defamation.

The broadcast media regulator said Raajje TV had aired an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meeting on September 23, 2013, in which an MDP member had defamed the Supreme Court bench.

VTV is said to have aired material defamatory to MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, MP Rozaina Adam, and Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek during its daily talk show ‘Fasmanzaru’ on September 27, 2013.

MBC has ordered Rajje TV and VTV to broadcast an apology and to allow the wronged party to speak in their defense by January 31. Furthermore, VTV has been ordered to broadcast ‘Fasmanzaru’ with a broadcast delay and Raajje TV has been ordered to broadcast all political events with a broadcast delay.

Speaking to Minivan News, VTV CEO Ibrahim Khaleel said the MBC’s decision “limited the freedom of the press”, and that the station did not see any reason to air an apology.

According to Khaleel, MBC ordered VTV to apologise for comments made on air by MP Ilham Ahmed and MP ‘Redwave’ Ahmed Saleem.

“The constitution guarantees freedom of expression within the tenets of Islam and we, as a TV station, gave airtime to politicians to express their opinions. No one has said anything contrary to a tenet of Islam,” Khaleel argued.

If any party feels they have been wronged, then the laws allow them to pursue defamation charges or to seek compensation through other means, he added.

Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Yamin Rasheed also condemned the MBC’s decision as “discriminatory”.

“It is not fair when MBC only orders specific TV channels to air specific programmes or events with a delay,” Yamin said arguing that other broadcasters must also be ordered to broadcast all political events with a delay.

Yamin also expressed concern over MBC ordering the station to air an apology over an MDP MP’s comments. However, he said Raajje TV would broadcast an apology and would allow the Supreme Court judges an hour to speak in their defense.

MBC has previously ordered Raajje TV, Dhi TV, and Dhi FM to apologise for defamatory material.

Raajje TV was ordered to apologise in December 2013 for airing a report defaming the Supreme Court, but MBC said the report does not constitute a national security threat as alleged by the apex court.

Furthermore, in July 2012, MBC ordered Raajje TV to apologise for airing a report alleging that a policeman had stolen petrol from a motorbike, and in August 2012 the station was ordered to issue an apology on three consecutive nights for publicising Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim’s text messages

In March 2012, Dhi FM was similarly reprimanded for content aired following the overthrow of Nasheed’s administration on February 8, 2012.


Reporters Without Borders blasts “persecution” of Raajje TV

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released a statement further criticising the “persecution” of Raajje TV, after the recent initiation of a Supreme Court ordered investigation into its content.

The station is currently under investigation by police after the court ordered they look into an October 19 news report which is alleged to have defamed the institution.

“Not only is the accusation spurious but the investigation has been assigned to the police, which has no competence in such a matter,” RSF said.

“As the Maldives Media Council, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission [MBC] and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party have all said, such an investigation is the Council’s responsibility.”

Raajje TV CEO Yamin Rasheed told Minivan News yesterday that, whilst both himself and the station’s News Head Asward Ibrahim had been summoned to police, he was only only willing to cooperate with the MBC.

“I won’t co-operate with police, but if the police and broadcasting commission get together and find a solution, I am willing to cooperate – if the broadcasting commission direct us to do so,” said Yamin.

Yesterday’s RSF statement sought to remind the Maldives police of its duty to guarantee freedom of information and media independence.

“The police should concentrate on identifying and arresting the perpetrators and instigators of the arson attack that gutted the station’s premises on 7 October instead of worrying about the quality of its programmes,” read the RSF statement.

Following the destruction of the station’s main studios by masked men earlier this month, RSF strongly condemned the attitude of police who failed to prevent the premeditated attack.

The day after the attack, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz suggested that protests conducted nearby by the Maldivian Democratic Party – with whom Raajje TV is aligned – had diverted police resources on the night of the attack, before arguing that Raajje TV staff had been negligent in not protecting the premises.

Police have today revealed that seven men and one minor have been arrested in relation to the attack.

“This unconstitutional order follows a failure on the part of the police to protect Raajje TV’s headquarters although they had been informed about the threats it had received, and it shows that the authorities are endorsing an offensive designed to silence Raajje TV by any means necessary,” read this week’s RSF statement.

After receiving fresh threats against its premises this week, Raajje TV has been advised by police to hire additional private security.

“The Police also responded to RaajjeTV’s request of Police security stating that there are difficulties in placing Officers for security but the building and the area will be specially patrolled,” read a police statement yesterday.

Since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, Raajje TV has faced increasing threats. In July 2012, the police and the President’s Office had said it would not cooperate with the TV station, blocking the station from President’s Office’s press conferences and police protection at protests.

The Civil Court has since ruled that the police and President’s Office’s decisions to ostracize the station were both unconstitutional.

In August 2012, critical cables in the station’s control room were cut, terminating the station’s broadcast. Several Raajje TV journalists have also reported arbitrary arrests and assaults.

In February 2013, men wielding iron rods on motorbikes assaulted Asward leaving him with near near-fatal head injuries.

“The same political alliance is behind the fresh threat, which says Raajje TV should be gone from the scene to meet their political needs,” Yamin told Minivan News this week.

The Maldives plummeted to 103rd in the RSF Press Freedom Index this year – a fall of 30 places and a return to pre-2008 levels.