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Maldives state media refuses to retract news on fake US cable

The US embassy dismissed the alleged leaked cable as fake.



The state-funded Public Service Media is refusing to retract allegations based on “leaked” documents about the United States colluding with the opposition, despite the US embassy dismissing the alleged cable as fake.

Citing the fake cable shared on social media by government supporters Wednesday night, PSM claimed there was an agreement between the US and opposition parties to reduce the size of the Maldives military in order to “eliminate China’s power in the Indian Ocean.”

In exchange, the US agreed to help bring the opposition to power and convinced exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed to drop out in favour of MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. But the Americans were concerned the lawmaker was suffering from a cognitive impairment and was being careless with prescribed medication, PSM reported across its platforms.

The US embassy in Colombo said it was “aware that a fake cable is circulating that appears to discuss the upcoming elections in Maldives. The cable is fraudulent and unrelated to the US embassy.”

But state media continued to report the claims on its TV and radio news bulletins Thursday morning, with no mention of the US embassy statement.

The report was not featured in the 2 pm news but the verbatim article published Wednesday night remains on the PSM site in the local Dhivehi language.

The photo of the alleged document on a binder was circulated on Twitter by accounts campaigning for President Abdulla Yameen. It purported to be a confidential cable sent from former US ambassador Atul Keshap to the State Department on May 1.

It was promptly picked up by the state media.

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

With the presidential election in less than three weeks, PSM has increasingly been under fire for promoting the incumbent while completely ignoring the opposition campaign.

PSM has also been carrying out negative campaigning, with stories branding the opposition unpatriotic, anti-Islamic and in cahoots with “Christian missionaries.”

As the country celebrated Eid last month, PSM publicised a photo of opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih standing on a mosque minbar, the imam’s pulpit. He was accused of “mocking Islam” by violating the sanctity of a mosque.

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 the present administration cut off electricity shortly after coming to power in 2013.