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Broadcasting regulator asked military to shut down Raajje TV

The defence ministry was asked to shut down the station during February’s state of emergency.



The Maldives Broadcasting Commission asked the defence ministry to shut down the opposition-aligned Raajje TV during February’s state of emergency, according to a letter leaked Sunday.

The privately-owned station was “broadcasting content that poses a threat to national security,” reads the letter signed by MBC member Ismail Sofwan and addressed to Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar.

Raajje TV’s live coverage was disrupting public order, inciting fear, and “bringing the national defence force into disrepute,” it added. “Therefore, at this time when a state of emergency has been declared, we ask that you stop this using the powers given to the ministry.”

According to media reports, Mohamed Shaheeb, president of the seven-member commission, was not present at the meeting on the night of February 7 when his colleagues decided to send the letter.

Then-vice president Mohamed Aslam, who chaired the meeting, reportedly opposed the move and walked out, after which Sofwan took over as chair and the letter was sent the same night.

The defence ministry did not forcibly shut down the station.

But Raajje TV discontinued its live broadcast the following day, citing a warning from the Maldives National Defence Force.

A week before the September 23 presidential election, MBC president Shaheeb filed a complaint with the police accusing Sofwan of keeping him hostage inside his office and trying to force him to resign or hand over his duties.

Sofwan, who is described as a ruling party activist by the media, denied the accusation.

At a press conference last month, Shaheeb conceded bias in defamation inquiries initiated by his colleagues.

The broadcasting regulator has slapped fines worth MVR3.7 million (US$240,000) on Raajje TV, mostly for airing speeches deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen.

In late October, the joint opposition submitted a bill to repeal the widely-condemned anti-defamation law.