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Raajje TV pays fine as court appeal begins

Raajje TV was last month penalised for broadcasting remarks from an opposition MP, the third fine slapped on it this year by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission.



Raajje TV has paid off an MVR500,000 ($32,467) fine imposed by the broadcasting regulator for airing comments deemed a threat to national security, as a preliminary hearing to appeal an earlier fine began Sunday.

The opposition-aligned station was last month penalised for broadcasting remarks from opposition MP Mohamed Musthafa. It was the third fine slapped on Raajje TV this year by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, increasing tensions between journalists and the government-backed watchdog.

The station’s Chief Operating Officer, Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, told reporters that Raajje TV was appealing the previous fine in a bid to get the money back.

“We won’t stop our fight against these unjust penalties. We will get justice and the members of the commission will have to take responsibility,” he said.

The seven-member MBC has previously imposed hefty fines on Raajje TV, including an MVR1 million fine for broadcasting a speech deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen that is the subject of the appeal under way.

The anti-defamation law passed in August 2016 holds broadcasters responsible for slanderous content aired during live events. The regulator is also authorised to suspend or cancel broadcasting licences if fines are not paid within 30 days.

The fine must be paid in full before the regulator’s decision can be appealed.

Raajje TV‘s case moved to trial after the state refused to resolve the dispute through dialogue. In the preliminary hearing Sunday, both parties exchanged documents in preparation for the trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

A proposed law, if passed, will see the dissolution of the country’s two media watchdogs including the MBC and the creation of one body to regulate print, TV and online outlets.

The new regulator can fine TV stations up to two percent of their annual income for repeated violations of the conditions for granting broadcasting licenses. It can also order stations that repeatedly fail to take corrective measures to temporarily suspend part of their programme schedule.

The Maldives is now ranked 117 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index, down from 112 the previous year.