Raajje Television, often deemed opposition-aligned, has been issued its heftiest fine to date.
Leaving aside the fines issued by the Criminal Court after finding its staff members guilty of obstruction, RaajjeTV has now been penalized, twice, under the controversial Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, which was passed in 2016.
On Thursday, Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) penalized the station by MVR one million, for broadcasting content that it believed was ‘defamatory to the country’s leader’. The inquiry was launched by the Commission itself.
The fine came hours after RaajjeTV paid the first fine issued to it under the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, MVR 200,000, which also was the first penalty under the controversial law passed in 2016.
So, the station was fined MVR one million, after an inquiry conducted by MBC’s own initiative.
Let’s have a look at the content in question?
The content in question is from a live broadcast of a rally held by the Maldives United Opposition (MUO) on 26th October 2016, where a guest speaker criticized the President, the current government, and its various 'failures'; nothing too different from what opposition politicians share on a daily basis.
The four points noted by MBC are;
- “Take a look at any of the projects launched by President Abdulla Yameen, there are none, other than a few projects such as the pigeon park”
- “There are no flats, airports, harbours or any other projects that were started by him”
- “Over the space of three years, how many billion Rufiya was handed over by the state coffers to him, there is nothing that was done”
- “What was certain for us is that, everything involved theft, corruption and tyranny. The people received nothing else”
These are the quotes mentioned in MBC's summary report.
The Commission said that RaajjeTV had violated subsections (a) (1) and (2) of clause 10 of the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, and that in doing so the Commission 'believes that RaajjeTV had broadcasted content defamatory to the country’s ruler, damaging his honour and dignity'.
The report further noted RaajjeTV had “admitted” to the violating regulations, and that the station has no room to defend itself “under any laws”.
RaajjeTV had admitted to violating the law, according to the Commission.
Sure, the station did agree that it had aired the content in question, and in its defense, noted a total of 11 points.
Now let’s have a quick look at the letter RaajjeTV sent in response to MBC’s allegations.
The letter noted the station does not believe that it had violated broadcasting regulations, and noted that it also does not believe that the content broadcasted on October 26, 2017 defamed President Abdulla Yameen, or damaged his honour or dignity.
“This is because the case involves a person’s own interest, and that the person in question has not filed a case, and neither has anyone on his behalf. Furthermore, such statements against him, live and recorded, are being broadcasted through various media outlets, the person in question has never submitted any such cases, or filed any charges,” reads the letter.
It further noted that the President has always welcomed criticism, highlighting that on February 13 in Kaafu Himmafushi, President Yameen said that “write whatever you want regarding the government, it is not an issue”.
“Also, speaking at the same rally, President Yameen had said that no other leader in the world has been slandered as much as him. This shows that as the nation’s ruler, criticism is expected and that he does not wish to press charges”, said RaajjeTV.
So, why was it so important for the commission to investigate this, despite there not being a complaint? Why had it not investigated the controversial documentary by Al Jazeera, especially since the government had repeatedly claimed that the aim of the documentary was to defame it?
The Commission’s decision in the first case against investigated under the defamation law makes it clear that it agrees that a complaint has to be made by the person who the defamatory remarks are targeted at. Complaints filed by independent individuals, regarding content defaming former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed were rejected by MBC, as both former leaders had, via twitter, stated that they did not wish to raise any charges under the defamation law, despite the fact that the Commission had the authority to continue with the investigations. MBC had then noted that “as the individuals in question had not filed a complaint, the Commission does not see that that an investigation must be carried out by its own initiative”.
Raajje Television faces various threats on a daily basis, and while there is a threat that the station could be shutdown, the station and its staff remains steadfast in their work in keeping the public informed.
Government moves towards banning @Raajje_tv by bankrupting them. After fining journalists thru court now MVR 1 million fine by MBC.— Munshid (@dyingregime) April 6, 2017
Thank You @Raajje_tv for the press that doesn't stop publishing regardless of the escalated fascist regime's inflicted anguish on Journors.— Mohamed Faisal (@faixal) April 6, 2017
Let’s go back to the beginning of this piece, where I called RaajjeTV “opposition aligned”. Those who criticize RaajjeTV are always quick to go to this attack. "Opposition aligned station, RaajjeTV". No, it is not that RaajjeTV is aligned with the opposition, but as a news and current affairs station, RaajjeTV aims to keep the government and all institutions accountable and responsible for their actions, so, whatever the insults and intimidation and penalties, RaajjeTV will continue its work, because we do not believe in worshipping a certain individual to stay alive. We believe in working through hardships without giving in, and that is what we will continue to do, as we continue our work.
We should all try to find his lost aburu. We might find it under the bridge, hopefully. https://t.co/5fOUJ2zb93— Mareesha (@Mareeeshaa) April 6, 2017