Raajje TV has been charged under the Maldives’ new and tougher defamation law, which the international community has described as posing a threat to the media, opposition and freedom of speech.
New Delhi: Faced with a second heftier fine, a Maldivian 24-hour television station, which has been the only platform to showcase opposition voices, is staring at a financial crisis and is on the verge of closure.
On March 7, Raajje TV became the first Maldivian media organisation to be fined under the new and much tougher defamation law passed in August 2016.
The electronic media regulator, Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) imposed a fine of 200,000 Maldivian Rufiyaa (about $13,000) on the opposition-aligned TV channel based on the complaint of a social worker that her view was not given in a piece accusing her of covering up a rape.
With the help of donations from the public in a special fund, the TV station managed to deposit the fine on the last day of the 30-day period given to it to pay.
But just as Raajje TV submitted the fine, it was slapped with another, heavier penalty on the same day (April 6) by the MBC. This time, the TV station has to pay one million MVR or around $65000 for ‘defaming’ Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen by broadcasting live a speech from an opposition rally on October 26 last year.
As per the translation of MBC’s statement by Maldives Independent, Raajje TV was charged for “openly created doubts in the hearts of the people about the legal duties or responsibilities of the ruler of the Maldives and damaged his honour and dignity”.
For Raajje TV, the two fines could put the station on the verge of financial ruin.
Speaking to The Wire, Raajje TV’s development manager Simana Ismail said that the channel had been able to meet operational expenses through sponsorships, as it is the “most watched” TV station in the country – despite not being backed by a big business house.
“However with the recent series of fines from the so called media regulator, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, we are currently in a financial crisis,” she said.
To meet the latest penalty, the Aburu (dignity) fund has been reinstated for public donations – but it may not be enough.
“The public is showing a lot of support to us. However given the little time we have to raise such a large amount small donations from the general public alone may not be sufficient to meet the required amount. Hence, we had to issue an urgent appeal calling for a wider support,” she said.
Ismail was referring to the appeal sent out by Raajje TV on April 16 seeking “urgent assistance, in any form, in moving forward with the case”.
Full details are available from the link below:
Source URL: Google News