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Campaign trail: state-funded propaganda

Daily roundup of news from the campaign trail.



A daily roundup of headlines made by the candidates, running mates and their surrogates on the campaign trail.

August 21

  • MDP presidential candidate stepping on minbar with shoes, that was mocking of religion! (PSM)
  • The place Ibu went inside with boots is an old mosque left to crumble! (Raajje)
  • Hithadhoo council condemns effort to defame Ibu (Vnews)
  • Valuable lessons to youth from Dr Shaheem’s life! (PSM)
  • Dr Shaheem checks up on Maldivian Hajj pilgrims (PSM)
  • The coalition’s journey will end with an end to tyranny: Faisal (Vnews)
  • We’ve shown the big picture on Fuvahmulah, the vote will be for change: Shah (Raajje)
  • Fuvahmulah youth behind Faisal (Vnews)

As the country celebrated Eid, the state-funded Public Service Media publicised a photo of opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ standing on a mosque minbar, the imam’s pulpit, and claimed he was facing a barrage of criticism on social media. Ibu was accused of mocking Islam by violating the sanctity of a mosque and some people were saying such incidents bolster the view that the opposition was irreligious or secularist, PSM reported.

It soon emerged that the photo was taken during a visit to an abandoned old mosque on Laamu Hithadhoo island, a fact that was omitted in the state media report. The island council issued a statement saying the mosque has been unused since President Abdulla Yameen’s administration cut off electricity shortly after coming to power in 2013. Ibu visited it at the request of the public who want to protect the ancient mosque as a heritage site, the council said.

The state media report came after the president’s running mate was accused by opposition-aligned clerics of violating the sanctity of the Islamic centre in Thinadhoo by posing for a photo with supporters of both genders. In his defence, Dr Mohamed Shaheem said it was still a construction site and that the photo was taken on the steps outside.

As in past election cycles, religious political rhetoric is a prominent part of the campaign with the ruling party seeking to brand the opposition as a threat to the country’s 100 percent Muslim status.

PSM, which operates at an annual cost of MVR80 million (US$5 million) to taxpayers, has long since shed any pretence of impartiality and functions as “a government mouthpiece,” in the words of a senior editor.

Tuesday’s news included a glowing report about Dr Shaheem with saccharine praise of his campaign style. The Islamic university chancellor performed the Eid prayer at a newly-opened mosque in Hulhumalé, which was built in memory of the first lady’s deceased parents.

Over in the south, opposition running mate Faisal Naseem led a well-attended rally on his native Fuvahmulah island, along with the constituency’s former ruling party lawmaker.