Six years ago on the ill-fated dawn of 7 October 2013, RaajjeTV’s main studio building was torched at 04:45am, the unforgiving fire did not leave a trace of mercy, destroying the station’s expensive transmission and broadcasting equipment and computer systems, most importantly, the second home of a handful of enthusiastic staff.
Dubbed the leading news and current affairs station in the country by many, RaajjeTV was subject to the gruesome attack and manifold threats that led up to it.
To some extent we saw it coming, our subliminal decision subsequently led to seeking security at the office building due to the ridiculously many threats its staff were facing as it was during the Presidential Elections of 2013.
Five armed and masked thugs entered BKT Building, where the station’s main studio was located at the time in the early hours of 7 October, and CCTV footage showed the attackers manhandling and dragging the building’s security guard, a Bangladeshi man, up to the second floor. While the guard was knifed, we watched the horrifying footage showing the men tear down the iron gate and wooden door.
Assailants doused the station’s control room in petrol and set it ablaze, a scene the still recaps in my head like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from as a helpless child.
The fire was controlled late in the morning, but nothing was saved. We all walked up the two flights of stairs to observe the charred studio, with sorrow heavier than concrete block, weighing our hearts down. Although the losses incurred were hard to recover, the station got back on its feet and was running within hours. Its reporters, with little to no sleep, were reporting via its website by 2pm the day of the attack.
There had been several reports of possible arson attacks on the station which in turn led up to the horrific attack.
I remember requiring a colleague to chaperon me back home after work due to the intensity of the heating ambiance RaajjeTV journalists were cloaked in, and to think, I was a frightened receptionist driven by the fear entrenched into my colleagues through phone calls I was receiving at the front desk. I remember laughing some of the calls off with my colleagues at first, until the threats started intensifying. It went to an extent that dread was the only thing in the office air those days, it would hang above our heads like a cloud just waiting to pour.
We will set RaajjeTV on fire!"
~ Two men speeding across the office.
These are some threats we have been hearing for god knows how long. The station’s employees were followed, openly threatened and some assaulted.
While six years have passed, justice is yet to appear on the horizon despite the extensive CCTV footage provided. Court proceedings are at a standstill and investigations have been neglected by authorities, which until the new government took over in November 2018, had ignored the threats, repeating anew. The past five years have been torture for the broadcaster, having been heavily oppressed and subject to constant attacks by then government and its supporters. RaajjeTV had even appealed at the Prosecutor General’s office to review the arson case, to no avail.
According to an audit report of the arson attack, RaajjeTV incurred losses amounting over MVR 1,317,400 and over MVR 10 million for equipment, the total amount reaching MVR 11.65 million.
It is only fair to say that RaajjeTV was on the receiving end of multiple threats and harassment for fairly long, although it has simmered down, the light at the end of the tunnel is yet to appear. How much longer do we wait and hope? Granted, we are at the point where we simply cannot afford to wait, after all, time is money and our team of relentless staff have selflessly been waiting to devour the sweetness of justice.