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Criticizing Government is a Costly Business in the Maldives – Human Rights Watch

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed is Interviewed on Raajje TV’s Falasurukhi Program. © Mohamed Nasheed/YouTube

With the Maldives’ presidential elections looming on September 23, media criticism of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and his government is proving to be a costly affair – quite literally.

Just ask broadcaster Raajje TV, which the authorities consider pro-opposition. It has already been fined four times since 2016 by the official Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) for content that was allegedly defamatory of the president and “a threat to national security.” This has cost the station nearly four million rufiyaa – over US$250,000, said Raajje’s operations chief, Hussain Fiyaz: “The fines are certainly a political decision made by a commission that is fully under the control of the government.”

The fines were leveled under the Maldives’ Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act, a broadly worded law that permits criminal penalties for defamatory speech and comments against “any tenet of Islam” or that “threaten national security.” It gives wide discretion to authorities to target media critics.

Raajje TV launched a public appeal to help pay the initial penalties, going door-to-door asking for donations. Of the two million rufiyaa (US$130,000) owed, some 800,000 came from public donations; another 100,000 was raised by selling Raajje t-shirts, and the rest from individual donors.

On August 8, the network was fined another two million rufiyaa for allegedly broadcasting content that was defamatory of the president.

Human Rights Watch has documented the Maldives government’s use of decrees and vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and to intimidate and imprison critics. Religious extremists and criminal gangs – including many that enjoy political protection – have assaulted and at times murdered outspoken critics.

Government pressure on the media particularly affects small, private broadcasters like Raajje TV, forcing it to self-censor. During a recent opposition rally, for instance, the station decided against broadcasting speeches by some opposition leaders.

Although Raajje TV has paid its latest fine, more may come. The broadcasting commission immediately launched an investigation after the station broadcast a recording of a press conference by opposition leaders, in which they submitted allegations against President Yameen to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Fiyaz believes there will be other attempts to obstruct the station’s coverage before election day, causing Raaije TV to rely on the kindness of strangers. “With the elections just around the corner, people don’t want to let the government deter us from doing our work,” he said.

If only the government were listening.

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Source URL: Google News

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4 Comments on "Criticizing Government is a Costly Business in the Maldives – Human Rights Watch"

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Mumbaikar
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It is not about criticizing the government. It is about working for foreign government!! What kind of patriotic person would ask foreign government to invade his home country? Nasheed is a big time bluffmaster. He is just twisting the fact. Take it!! If it is an Indian asking China to invade India, India will get him dead!! Poor maldivians have to put up with criminals like Nasheed who is making his living ONLY through payments from foreign governments!! SHAME!! Shame of MDP for backing an anti-national The government should raise Interpol red alert on him just for that one statement… Read more »
Mumbaikar
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Don’t Nasheed know his paymaster India also do the same wheein score of those criticized Indian government are in prison and even killed in extrajudicial murders. With what face he is bringing India to his support? How can he argue for all these when his principle financier does all what he states in India itself ? Gross!! Pathetic.

Mumbaikar
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Either Maldivestimes works for fascist regime of India or scared of Nasheed mafia. At least celebrate Maldivian victory over India in soccer. You will see how a fascist mind works with retaliation from Modi’s criminal regime after this soccer defeat.

MissIndia
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Mumbaikar you seem obscessed with India. You attribute all the problems of Maldives to India much like Pukeistan blames Afghanistan for all its internal problems. India has no strategic interest in the Maldives. You are too small and too insignificant to matter. The shipping lanes near Maldives are of no importance to India either because our west coast is fully accessible to shipping. With the fastest growing economy in the world today India is now too big and too powerful to bother about tinpot dictatorships like Maldives . It’s the elephant and ant scenario. In a power struggle between an… Read more »