The police have returned seven out of 33 pieces of broadcasting equipment confiscated from Sangu TV during a raid of the privately-owned station’s offices in Malé more than five months ago.
The police had raided Sangu TV in the early hours of November 7 in connection with a “threatening video message” uploaded to YouTube and confiscated all of the station’s hard disks and broadcasting equipment, forcing Sangu TV to stop live transmission for three days.
On Friday, the police returned three laptops and four hard disks.
Sangu TV managing director Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed told The Maldives Independent that the laptops were returned after repeated requests. They contained administrative documents and forms, he added.
“It is unacceptable that the police took several months to simply take a backup from the confiscated equipment,” he said.
The police had informed the station that backing up the data was causing delays.
Asward criticised the government for what he described as the “refusal to address broadcast-related issues through relevant institutions such as the [Maldives Broadcasting Commission]”.
Assistant Commissioner Abdulla Nawaz told the press at the time that Sangu TV was raided after police traced the threatening video to an IP address at the station’s office.
“It’s hard for us to say now that only independent journalism is taking place inside Sangu TV,” he said, adding that an independent media outlet should not be “a crime den.”
Nawaz said the video was uploaded on May 9. It showed a masked man threatening to kill the police chief, tourism minister, and judges if Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla is “unjustly” convicted and jailed.
The Sangu TV raid came a day after President Abdulla Yameen declared a 30-day state of emergency and gave police sweeping powers to arrest suspects and carry out raids without court warrants.
The opposition-aligned station Raajje TV had also suspended current affairs coverage at the time, citing inability to “report without fear” during the state of emergency.
The return of the Sangu TV equipment was among nine demands outlined in a petition submitted Sunday to the President’s Office, the People’s Majlis and the Supreme Court.
Signed by some 183 Maldivian journalists, the petition was part of a campaign launched by the Maldivian media following the arrest of some 18 journalists on April 3 from a sit-in protest outside the president’s office, which was prompted by the abduction of The Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan, the closure of Haveeru and the appointment of President Abdulla Yameen’s campaign workers to the broadcasting regulator.
Since the campaign was launched earlier this month, the state has filed charges against four Raajje TV journalists.