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Maldives authorities continue to persecute opposition TV station

Reporters Without Borders deplores the continuing persecution of the opposition television station Raajje TV. In the latest development, the Supreme Court has told the police to investigate Raajje TV's CEO and news department chief over a supposedly "offensive" report about the judicial system that the station broadcast on 19 October.

"Not only is the accusation spurious but the investigation has been assigned to the police, which has no competence in such a matter," Reporters Without Borders said. "As the Maldives Media Council, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party have all said, such an investigation is the Council's responsibility."

"The police should concentrate on identifying and arresting the perpetrators and instigators of the arson attack that gutted the station's premises on 7 October instead of worrying about the quality of its programmes.

"This unconstitutional order follows a failure on the part of the police to protect Raajje TV's headquarters although they had been informed about the threats it had received, and it shows that the authorities are endorsing an offensive designed to silence Raajje TV by any means necessary."

Reporters Without Borders added: "Ever since a change of government in February 2012, Raajje TV has been banned from the president's news conferences and has been denied police protection during demonstrations. We remind the government that it has a duty to guarantee freedom of information and media independence."

Raajje TV news department chief Ibrahim Asward Waheed told Reporters Without Borders that the station has received new threats, in which it is warned that it could be target of another physical attack.

"We are all very worried," he said. "When I reported these threats to the authorities and requested additional police protection, they suggested that I hire private security guards." The police inaction during the 7 October arson attack has been widely criticized.

The police investigation into Waheed and CEO Yamin Rasheed was ordered in response to a programme that likened the judicial system to the biblical city of Sodom. Rasheed is also to be questioned about the station's coverage of a sex scandal allegedly involving a judge.

In a press release on 25 October, the Maldives Media Council said a police investigation into such a matter could create "fear and discomfort" in the media and restrict media freedom. Responsibility for such an investigation lay with the council and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, the release added.

The Maldivian Democratic Party said the police investigation was unconstitutional and asked the Supreme Court to rescind its order.

The Supreme Court also asked the Maldives Broadcasting Commission to investigate the case but gave it only ten days to deliver its findings, although the law allows 60 days for an investigation so that the media concerned has time to defend itself.

Maldives is ranked 103rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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