The broadcast regulator has launched a probe into Raajje TV’s broadcast of a second interview with an opposition member who has repeatedly levelled corruption allegations against President Abdulla Yameen.
The Maldives Broadcasting Commission, in a letter to the opposition-aligned station today, said it was looking into a complaint filed over defamatory content aired during the May 1 episode of the talk show, Fala Surkhee.
Ali Waheed, the chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party, in an apparent show of defiance of the MBC’s penalizing Raajje TV for a previous interview with him, claimed Yameen has been depositing “suitcases of black money” in Singaporean banks, including the United Overseas Bank.
Raajje TV is being forced to broadcast the live talk-show with a five-minute delay after Waheed accused the president and the first lady of corruption in a February 9 interview. The former MP is living in exile in the United Kingdom.
Yameen and officials of his Progressive Party of the Maldives are under fire over a historic corruption scandal involving the theft of some US$80million from tourism leases.
The MBC told Raajje TV today that “content defamatory to senior state officials, which violates Article 3 (1) of the broadcasting regulations is observed when the bulk of content broadcasted on the May 1 programme is considered. ”
The commission asked the station for a written response by May 19, saying it had not yet concluded that Raajje TV was in the wrong.
Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, the station’s chief operating officer, said: “It is extremely difficult for us to respond when the commission has not revealed which part of the content, which specific bit, has violated the broadcasting code.”
Fala Surkhee, a popular nightly programme, has featured provocative political figures including former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim.
The show came under fire when Waheed challenged Yameen to dispute evidence purportedly showing that a local company implicated in the Maldives biggest ever corruption scandal had deposited US$500,000 to his bank account at the Maldives Islamic Bank.
Since the extent of the embezzlement of funds from state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation was exposed in a damning audit report in February, Yameen has insisted that his former deputy was solely responsible for the theft.
The MBC was recently reconstituted with ruling party activists.
Raajje TV was forced to issue an apology last month over a documentary about a Sri Lankan man who allegedly performed black magic to help Yameen win the 2013 election.
The documentary titled “Rule by black magic” has been banned.