Raajje TV admits allegations of fraud against tax commissioner was a mistake

Raajje TV admits allegations of fraud against tax commissioner was a mistake
September 27 00:56 2016

Opposition aligned Raajje TV has said it made a mistake by publishing allegations of fraud against the tax commissioner, Mohamed Yazeed, who has sued the station for defamation over the report.

The station on July 30 claimed Yazeed was not paying taxes on a luxury flat he had allegedly rented out to a foreign national.

In a statement on Monday, Raajje TV said it has “found that Yazeed’s flat has not been rented out.” The station did not publish an apology, but said it wanted to bring the matter to its viewers’ attention.

The libel case is ongoing at the civil court and the station is likely to be fined MVR5000 (US$324).

Raajje TV is not facing a criminal inquiry since the article was published before a new law criminalizing defamation came into force.

The report, based on an anonymous source, claimed Yazeed was not paying business profit tax on the lease of a flat that was given to him by the government at a discounted price last year.

“It is not clear how the state commissioner of taxation, who is in charge of issuing heavy fines and sanctions on people who refuse to pay taxes and those do not submit tax statements, continue doing business without registration,” wrote Azmoon Ahmed.

Yazeed had dismissed the claim.

Azmoon later claimed he was threatened by two men with a knife for his criticism of Yazeed and President Abdulla Yameen. The men had also warned him against writing about the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali, Azmoon told Maldives Independent at the time.

Raajje TV has come under increasing pressure for coverage critical of the government.

In April, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission ordered the outlet to apologise for a documentary about a Sri Lankan man who allegedly performed sorcery or black magic to help Yameen win the 2013 election.

Later in the same month the MBC also ordered Raajje TV to stop live broadcast of a popular talk show following a complaint over corruption allegations levelled at Yameen by an opposition politician in exile.

The regulator is also investigating a report broadcasted in July that featured a young man who claims police offered him MVR500,000 (US$32,509) to frame a suspect in the high-profile murder of a parliamentarian.

Three of its journalists are meanwhile on trial on charges of obstructing police officers, while another is being prosecuted on charges of assaulting a policeman.

No one has been convicted over the near-fatal beating of former Raajje TV journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed in February 2013, while those responsible for arson attack that destroyed the station’s office in October, too, remain unpunished.