Raajje TV faces inquiry for airing corruption allegations against president

Raajje TV faces inquiry for airing corruption allegations against president
February 28 15:30 2016

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission has launched an investigation into a talk show aired by Raajje TV in which an opposition member levelled allegations of corruption at President Abdulla Yameen.

Ibrahim Ashraf, an MBC member, said the broadcasting regulator was investigating a complaint lodged by a member of the public, but declined to comment further.

The investigation concerns the February 9 episode of the popular Fala Suruhee (Headlines) talk show, during which Ali Waheed, the chairperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, challenged the president to dispute evidence purportedly showing that a local company implicated in a corruption scandal had deposited US$1million to his bank account at the Maldives Islamic Bank.

According to Raajje TV, the MBC letter claimed that the program contravened broadcasting codes against defamation and profane content.

The Fala Suruhee program has featured provocative political figures and has recently featured ex Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim and former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

On February 10, the MBC also banned a Raajje TV documentary about a Sri Lankan man who said he had performed sorcery to help Yameen win the 2013 elections.

The exposé featured an exclusive interview with Asela Wikramasinghe – a Sri Lankan “priest” who owns a temple for the worship of the Hindu god Durga – as well as secretly recorded conversations he had with Yameen during the 2013 campaign.

In one of the audio clips, Yameen and Asela discuss ways to eliminate former President Mohamed Nasheed from the presidential race.

The MBC said that airing the documentary “would cause serious adverse impact on society.”

In November last year, Raajje TV suspended current affairs coverage following the brief detention of a fourth journalist and warnings from the the media regulatory body of revoking the licenses of stations that air content deemed to endanger national security.

In February 2013, Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed was nearly beaten to death, while the station’s offices and equipment were destroyed in an arson attack in October that year.

Two years after the arson attack, only one of 18 suspects was charged.

The Maldives has plummeted on the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index during the past four years. In 2014, numerous death threats were sent to journalists, journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared, and a machete was buried at the door of the The Maldives Independent office.

While police assured thorough investigations in each case, charges have not been raised against any suspects to date.