RaajjeTV was forced to shut Thursday night after the Maldives military threatened the country’s media.
The station discontinued its live broadcast at around 11 pm, citing a warning from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) it would close down news outlets that were “threatening national security.”
“As the most watched TV station in the Maldives, we regret that the temporary suspension of our regular broadcast would deprive the public their right to information – a right that is vital for the public, especially at this critical time.”
“These are protected rights that cannot be suppressed even during a state of emergency, as clearly stipulated in article 255 (b) of the constitution.”
The station and its journalists have been harassed, threatened and intimidated during the past week, it said.
“Following the Supreme Court ruling on 1st February, RaajjeTV received a number of threats including open calls for arson attacks, threats of violence against staff and calls to burn down the station by a mob gathered in front of RaajjeTV.”
“This was backed up by public appeals to the broadcast regulator, police and military by ruling party lawmakers and senior government officials to shut down RaajjeTV.”
Threats have intensified since the state of emergency was declared on Monday, RaajjeTV said, but the Maldives Police Service has stopped providing the station with security.
“RaajjeTV shutdown in imminent. Will continue to work for the people of the Maldives till the last minute. We have no security,” it tweeted Monday night.
A statement from the MNDF earlier Thursday said it would “without prior notice, take action against all who spread content and information that threaten national security.”
RaajjeTV said the MNDF had taken over the powers of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission “despite having no legal or constitutional power to do so.”
The MBC had issued a similar warning on Wednesday, saying it would revoke the license of media broadcasting content that “threatens national security”.
Shortly after RaajjeTV stopped its services, MBC told state media it would take action against the station for suspending broadcast without telling the commission 15 days prior.
RaajjeTV is one of the few remaining independent stations and the MBC has punished it several times under a defamation law, increasing tensions between journalists and the government-backed regulator.
The Maldives is ranked 117 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index, down from 112 the previous year.