The ruling party-dominated parliament has approved six of the president’s nominees to the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, including the regulator’s incumbent president and two campaign workers for President Abdulla Yameen.
A group of journalists staged a silent protest outside the People’s Majlis while voting on the nominees took place around 1:30pm, expressing concern that opposition-aligned TV and radio stations will be unfairly targeted by the newly appointed members.
The journalists included several arrested from a sit-in protest outside the president’s office Sunday morning.
The names of all 23 individuals who had applied to the president’s office to fill upcoming vacancies in the seven-member commission were forwarded to the parliament in late May. However, the names were ranked in order of preference.
The parliament today duly approved Yameen’s preferred six nominees with more than 50 votes on average. They were MBC President Mohamed Shaheeb, Ismail Sofwan, Hassan Nabah, Fathmath Zaina, Zeena Zahir, and Aminath Sharahath Izzath.
Zaina, a former journalist, is an administrative officer at Muleeage and the editor of the pro-government ‘Yageen’ magazine. Both Zaina and Zeena Zahir are active in the president’s campaign office, which is managed by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim.
Both women were also involved in organising the recently concluded symposium held in Malé to train campaign leaders for Yameen’s reelection bid in 2018.
Yameen’s administration has been accused of using the ruling coalition’s majority in parliament to stack independent institutions with loyalists and party activists.
The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance control 52 seats in the 85-member house.
The parliament’s rejection today of popular television presenter Mariyam Waheedha has meanwhile drawn widespread criticism on social media.
Following evaluation and interviewing of the nominees by the independent institutions oversight committee, Waheedha was awarded the highest marks based on educational qualifications and experience in the field.
However, only 22 MPs voted in favour of appointing her to the commission while 46 pro-government MPs voted against.
Waheedha’s name was also placed last on the president’s list.
Two of the commission’s current members, Abdulla Shujau and Ibrahim Ashraf, had also applied to the president’s office but did not make the top six.
The broadcasting commission is an independent regulatory body formed under the Broadcasting Act of 2010. The commission commenced work on April 4, 2011.
The MBC’s mandate involves regulating and developing the broadcasting sector in the Maldives, investigating content-related complaints, and issuing broadcasting licenses.
The five-year terms of six MBC members of are due to expire on April 4.
The MBC came under fire during last November’s short-lived state of emergency after threatening to revoke the licenses of TV stations that air content deemed to pose a threat to national security.
Last month, the commission ordered the opposition-aligned Raajje TV not to air a documentary about a Sri Lankan man who allegedly performed sorcery or black magic to help Yameen win the 2013 election.
The current members of the seven-member commission are Mohamed Shaheeb, Abdulla Shujau, Aishath Hana, Mariyam Shaugy, Ibrahim Ashraf and Moomina Adam.
A seventh member, Mohamed Aslam, was appointed in March 2013 to replace former MBC President Badr Naseer. Aslam’s five-year term expires in March 2018.
Govt votes out the most qualified nomination for Broadcasting Watchdog-Mariyam Waheeda.Votes in ill qualified, Govt party activists. #majlis
— Eva Abdulla (@evattey) April 4, 2016
“The Majlis not appointing a competent person like Mariyam Waheeda (TV Mary) to Broadcom is regrettable,” tweeted Jumhooree Party MP Faisal Naseem.
BroadCom ah Mariyam Waheeda ( TV Mary ) fadha qaabil beyfulhaku Majlihun nuhovumakee dhera kameh pic.twitter.com/lEdxFC8sWI
— Faisal Naseem (@FaisalNasym) April 4, 2016
Broadcasting Commission for PPM:
– Zeena Zahir
– Zeyna pic.twitter.com/rMqJMg7rQy
— Mohd Abdulla Shafeeg (@mashafeeg) April 4, 2016
— Hassan Ziyaa (@HassanZiyau) April 4, 2016
Maldives Ruling party rejected most qualified for Broadcast commision. Approved ppm activists failed in 10th grade pic.twitter.com/rKG5fcACPG
— mussto☟Bunny (@M_MUSTHAFAA) April 4, 2016
— Sabra #FreePNasheed (@SabraNoordeen) April 4, 2016
How to become appointed to Independent commissions in Maldives:
1. Become an activist of a political party.
2. Repeat step 1 over & over.
— ali. (@AliAHilmy) April 4, 2016
— Raajjetherey Meehaa™ (@AhmedYaamyn) April 4, 2016
Darkest day in Maldives broadcast history. Utterly unqualified, incompetent pawns put in @broadcomMV with a mandate to take TV/Radio hostage
— Mohamed Junayd (@mjunayd) April 4, 2016
This is why parliamentary elections are so important. Mordis you elect idiots to elect more idiots and expect things to work smoothly
— Aem (@tanningOil) April 4, 2016