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Raajje TV hits out at broadcast watchdog after record fine

The station has been fined the maximum amount of US$130,000.



Raajje TV on Thursday criticised the Maldives’ broadcast watchdog over its “targeted attack” to restrict press freedom, after being hit with a record fine.

It was fined MVR2 million (US$129,807) by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission over content deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen and a threat to national security.

The content was a politician’s speech during the live broadcast of an opposition demonstration.

Raajje TV said the fine was the latest in a series of attacks “with the sole intent of creating fear of President Yameen and his regime.”

Raajje TV believes that this is a calculated and well coordinated attack to obstruct its efforts to make President Yameen’s government accountable ahead of next month’s presidential election,” it said.

Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, the stations’ COO, told the Maldives Independent there would be a fundraising drive to pay the fine.

The station also criticised the MBC for publicising the fine before informing the station of it.

“This shows a lack of professionalism from members of the commission, some of whom are loyalists of Yameen.”

The MBC has been stacked with Yameen loyalists including campaign workers. Some commission members used to be employed by the first lady’s office and have been involved in organising political events for the ruling coalition.

In March, the head of news at pro-government broadcaster Channel 13 was appointed as a commission member.

The MBC has already imposed heavy fines totalling MVR 1.7 million on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV.

VTV and VFM, owned by the self-exiled Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, were fined MVR400,000 in March.

But the MBC has thrown out complaints against state TV, triggering accusations of double standards in 2016 after it ruled that questionable content aired by Channel 13 was not defamatory.

The fines are imposed under anti-defamation laws that require the penalty to be settled before a decision can be appealed.

The Maldives ranks 120 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index, following the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed and further restrictions on the media.

Photo shows a previous fundraising drive by Raajje TV to pay a fine.