In August 2016, the Maldives passed a controversial law that criminalised defamation and restricted freedom of expression. The Maldives Broadcasting Commission has punished opposition-aligned Raajje TV several times under this law, increasing tensions between journalists and the government-backed regulator.
Following is a timeline of actions taken by MBC against Raajje TV this year.
March 7: MBC fines Raajje TV MVR200,000 (US$13,000) and the station’s former journalist Aala Ibrahim MVR50,000 for “damaging the reputation and character” of an Addu City social worker over a rape case story.
March 12: Raajje TV sets up a “Defamation Fund” to pay off the fine.
April 4: Former home minister Umar Naseer files defamation complaints against state broadcaster Television Maldives and pro-government news channel Channel 13 for airing a speech by MP Ibrahim Falah accusing Umar of corruption.
April 6: Raajje TV pays the first fine. MBC fines Raajje TV for a second time, this time MVR1 million for airing an opposition rally speech from October 26 deemed “defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen”.
April 14: MBC asks police to press criminal charges against former Raajje TV journalist Aalaa Ibrahim for failing to pay her MVR50,000 fine.
May 4: Raajje TV pays the second fine, saying it will appeal.
July 24: Former attorney general Dhiyana Saeed pays the fine imposed on ex-Raajje TV journalist Aalaa Ibrahim.
July 28: MP Mohamed Musthafa appears on a live Raajje TV programme.
October 8: Third fine! MBC fines Raajje TV MVR500,000 for airing Musthafa’s comments, calling them a “threat to national security”. The fine coincides with the fourth anniversary of an arson attack on the station.
October 9: Raajje TV condemns MBC, announcing plans to appeal the fine and sue the police over their failure to investigate the arson attack.
October 12: Raajje TV journalists stage a silent protest against MBC at the Maldives Media Council Journalism Awards.
October 13: Raajje TV say they will press charges against MBC President Mohamed Shaheeb for taking unlawful action against them.
October 15: Raajje TV files for a stay order on imposing the fine. Staff and journalists appeal to MBC president to stop illegal measures.