The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has announced that it has stopped cooperating with local TV station Raajje TV, claiming that the opposition-aligned TV station was broadcasting false and slanderous content about the police which had undermined their credibility and public confidence.
In a press statement released today, MPS stated that the decision was reached after the station had “deliberately and continuously broadcast false and baseless content with the intention to incite hatred” towards the institution.
“Also, Raajje TV’s broadcasting of false and baseless content about the police institution is seen to be carried out for the political benefit of certain parties and such actions neither fit in with the norms of professional journalism or the principles followed by media outlets of other democratic countries,” read the statement.
Speaking to Minivan News, a reporter from Raajje TV said that prior to the decision police had already indicated yesterday that they were not willing to cooperate with the Raajje TV reporters.
The reporter said that the station had tried to cover the arrival of the body of murdered police officer lance corporal Adam Haleem to Male, however had pushed the reporters back and told them “it was not a wise thing to come there.”
“A police official came over to us and said that it was not a wise thing to come there. The person said that the police officers were in a very ‘hyper’ mood and that anything could happen at such time,” said the reporter.
“They told us that if something ‘bad’ happened there, the police would not be able to protect us. Then another officer came and said to the officer who spoke to us, to check if we had press cards and to move those who did not have press cards out of the area,” he added.
“Caught on video”
The decision from the police comes just a day after Raajje TV broadcasted CCTV video footage of some police officers, who the station alleged were “caught on video” while they were stealing petrol from a motorbike parked in a small road in Male’.
However police denied the allegations and condemned Raajje TV for spreading “false and untrue” information about them.
Superintendent of Police Abdulla Navaz in a press briefing stated that the video footage was showing the police carrying out their legal duty.
Raajje TV had twisted the details and information in their news report, which Navaz said showed police confiscating a five litre container of petrol from the road.
He also stated that the container was confiscated after police on patrol duty noticed that someone had connected a pipe to steal petrol from a parked motorbike in the road.
“It was decided that we would find the owner of the motor bike and hand over the things that were confiscated. The petrol container is also kept under police observation as evidence,” he said.
Navaz showed the media documents filed during the confiscation.
In the press briefing he expressed concerns over Raajje TV’s “irresponsible” actions and said that the police would file complaints with concerned authorities.
Demand for apology
Following the broadcast of the video, Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) sent a letter to the TV station stating that it had broadcasted the content without checking its authenticity and were therefore ordered to apologise for their actions.
MBC in the letter stated that following the broadcasting of the video police had denied the allegation and released details of the incident, but said the station had failed to inform the public of their erroneous content.
“Therefore, news that was broadcast from July 22 onwards, alleging that the police had stolen petrol from a motorbike is untrue. This commission orders the station to broadcast a statement apologising for the publication, for three consecutive nights starting from July 24, after every news hour,” read the letter.
MBC also issued a warning in the letter stating that if the commission noticed any further violations of the broadcasting laws and regulations, they would take action against the station under the article 49(c) of the Broadcasting Act.
MBC also stated that the station had repeatedly violated the broadcasting laws, regulations and ethics code, during its coverage of the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.
The commission stated that because of the coverage, it had given rise to possible political instability and chaos in the society, and said the commission had received “several complaints about it”.
MBC in the letter highlighted that it had sent written advice to the station on July 12, and had met with the management of the station on July 17 and had advised it to broadcast content within legal boundaries.
Deputy CEO of RaajjeTV, Abdulla Yaamin, told local media that the station had no intention of undermining the reputation of the police.
He also stated that the station had broadcast the entire recording of the police press briefing held to deny the allegations, giving them the opportunity to defend themselves from the allegations.
He also stated that police were very unresponsive to the queries of reporters from the station.
“They don’t give a proper response when we call to get a comment for a news piece. Even today, when our reporters went to cover the events where the murdered police officer was brought in Male, they sent us away saying that they cannot give us protection,” he said.
He also said the station would decide how to proceed after seeking legal counsel.
Speaking to Minivan News, Yamin confirmed the incident took place and said that the station would release a statement.
Raajje TV is one of the five private broadcasters of the country and is the only opposition-aligned TV station the country. The TV station has come under pressure and criticism from the government and political parties aligned to government for its opposition coverage.
Most recently, the station aired footage of police apparently pepper-spraying former President Mohamed Nasheed during a protest rally on July 14, after police had issued a statement denying that the incident had occurred.
Earlier in May, Yamin accused the security forces of “physical and psychological intimidation” to the reporters of the station during a by deposed President Mohamed Nasheed to mark International Press Freedom Day.
He said the station had operated with freedom and “without any fear” before the change of power on February 7.
Since the transfer of power Raajje TV reporters have experienced physical attacks and have been threatened by security forces, Yamin said. Further, he said ministers of the current administration had refused to engage with the station.
“I have no certainty I can safely go home after saying this here,” Yamin said at the time.
The TV station first went on air as “Future TV” in 2008, but started broadcasting as “Raajje TV” in 2011. Its audience increased dramatically following the takeover of the state broadcaster by the police and military on February 7.