The home ministry and broadcasting regulator threatened Tuesday to take legal action against media outlets that “promote” convicted opposition leaders.
Broadcasting interviews and statements from convicted politicians violate the Jails and Parole Act, the authorities claimed, citing provisions that restrict meetings and prohibit convicts from holding high-level or leadership posts in political parties.
The stern warning came amid campaigning from exile by former president Mohamed Nasheed for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s primary. Nasheed and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim fled the country on medical leave after widely criticised prison sentences.
Following the threat against media, Nasheed, who has been campaigning remotely with daily Skype meetings, has said he will continue to communicate with the public through video conference calls.
Raajje TV has, meanwhile, decided to seek a court order to annul the Maldives Broadcasting Commission’s circular. In a statement Wednesday, the opposition-aligned station noted the absence of any law that criminalises broadcasting interviews or statements from inmates.
It accused the seven-member commission of misusing its powers and undermining press freedom to do the government’s bidding.
The MBC has previously taken action against Raajje TV under the controversial 2016 anti-defamation law, including imposing a fine of MVR1 million (US$64,850) for airing a speech that was deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen.
In late January, the Maldives Correctional Service also threatened action against media outlets that cover prisoner statements.
The MCS statement, referencing two regulations about detainees, said it was a violation to publish or broadcast statements, interviews or quotes from prisoners. But neither regulation referred to in the statement mentions the media nor specifies actions that can be taken against the media.
Both RN & Hon. Qasim are asylees whose rights are protected by international law; they are not prisoners held in State custody.
— Dhiyana 🎈 (@dhiyanasaid) May 29, 2018