Reference No: 96/08/2012
MDP strongly condemns and expresses deep concern on plummeting press freedom in the Maldives
The Maldivian Democratic Paryt (MDP) strongly condemns the attack against Raajje TV, the only television station non – aligned to former Vice President, Dr. Waheed’s regime and actively covers MDP protests and rallies. MDP calls on all relent institutions to immediately investigate the all the recent attacks against the station and their staff.
In the early hours of 7 August 2012, Raajje TV’s main station and studio was broken into and critical cables used in the control room to broadcast were vandalized and damaged beyond reparable.
Raaje TV, in statement stated that their studio was broken into after a power cut, disabling their security system. The statement read ‘most of our on-air equipment has been damaged. All of the cables were cut”
“We believe this was an organized attack against Raajje TV. Only a broadcasting technician would know how to do this,” the statement added.
Tuesday’s attack comes after several threats and warning issued both by the public and members of the opposition against the station, their staff and journalists. Several of Raajje TV’s cameramen, reporters, presenters and producers have been constantly attacked since the protests against President Nasheed began in January 2012.
On 14 April, Raajje TV presenters, Mohamed Jinah and QuftaqAjeer were violently assaulted. On 29th May Rajje TV’s cameraman Ali Fahud was pepper sprayed at close range by the riot police. Furthremore on July 1, 2012, Raajje TV officials were informed that the Communication Authority of Maldives (CAM) denied its request for a nationwide broadcast license citing that, “broadcasting policies are under review.” License was issued later following pressure from the public and media watchdogs. Rajje TV reports that during the MDP organized protests, their reporters are often harassed and given ‘death threats’ by the police. During the recent protests, Raajje TV’s cameraman Ahmed Shanoon was baton-charged and he fell unconscious on the spot during police crackdown on 12th July protests. Furthermore, Asward Ibrahim, Raajje TV’s head of news was also arrested violently by the police. (0:06-0:14, Police attack Asward Ibrahim – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ0ydcERP0U&feature=player_embedded).
Dr. Waheed’s regime intensified their attacks against Raajje TV after the regimes Commissioner of Police and the Home Minister openly alleged that Raajje TV and President Nasheed are “enemies of the State.” Furthermore, the Commissioner of Police also announced on 25th July that Maldives Police Services had decided to “not cooperate with Rajje TV.”
MDP notes with deep regret that in the absence of law and order, the Maldives Police Services continue to be an actor and participant to promote lawlessness and impunity, instead of a deterrent. MDP strongly believes that the Police do not have the right to pick and choose and when they want to provide protection.
“Continued attacks on Raajje TV is an attack on media freedom. Their team is extremely courageous and they are working against the odds during their coverage of pro-democracy rallies and MDP activities. They are constantly being threatened – the latest being our own police,” said Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, MDP’s spokesperson for international affairs.
“I fear for the state of hard-won freedoms, most importantly what’s happening to press freedom in the Maldives” Ghafoor added.
Since the coup in February, Maldives’ press freedom rakings have dropped. The UN High commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over policy brutality while international human rights organizations including the Amnesty International and media watchdogs such the Committee to Protect Journalists have expressed concerns over targeted attacks against journalists covering the protests.
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor