Opposition broadcaster Raajje TV silenced in the Maldives
(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, August 7, 2012 - Authorities in the Maldives must immediately investigate today's attack on the opposition Raajje TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The attack came just days after police accused the station of making false allegations against security forces, according to news reports.
Unidentified men broke into the offices of Raajje TV, in the capital, Male, early in the morning and severed critical cables, which interrupted the station's nationwide coverage, Miuvan Mohamed, Raajje TV's assistant news editor, told CPJ by direct message on Twitter. The damage was estimated at 100,000 Maldives rufiyaa (USD 6,560), local news website Minivan News reported. Although initial reports said replacement equipment would take two days to arrive, the station has been able to resume broadcasting, Mohamed told CPJ by email today.
"[Attackers] shut down the electricity for the whole building which caused our electric lock systems to fail," Raajje TV's deputy CEO, Abdulla Yamin, told Minivan News. "We suspect . . . the culprit knows this place very well."
The attack occurred two weeks after police issued a statement accusing Raajje TV of making false allegations against security forces. In the July 24 statement, police said they wouldn't "cooperate" with the station because it had broadcast "deliberately false and slanderous contents to undermine the credibility and public confidence towards police," according to an English translation provided to CPJ by Hassan Haneef, sub-inspector of the Maldives Police Service.
The nature of the cooperation that police were withholding was not clear. When asked whether the police would protect Raajje TV journalists from attacks, Haneef referred CPJ to the statement, which said that while police would not "provide support to Raajje TV in relation to media activities," it would not discriminate against them during criminal investigations. Among several recent anti-police reports, Raajje TV has accused some officers of stealing gas, which police have denied, according to CPJ research.
Minivan News reported on Wednesday that Raajje TV had filed a civil suit that said the police statement was against its constitutional rights.
"Denying a news outlet 'support' is not an appropriate way for police to contradict broadcast reports," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Authorities in the Maldives need to ensure an independent investigation into this incident."
Supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party have orchestrated sometimes-violent protests in Male since last month, calling for presidential elections.
The Maldives Broadcasting Commission condemned the attack on Raajje TV and called on police officials to withdraw their statement, according to local newspaper Haveeru. The commission's president, Badr Naseer, resigned in July, citing pressure from both government and the opposition, Minivan News reported.