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#Maldives media debate unfolds on Twitter

MDP protesters demonstrate outside the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo. (AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi)

It started at 6:34 p.m. Monday. Abdulla Riyaz (@riyazabdulla), whose Twitter bio describes him as commissioner of the Maldives Police Service (MPS), published the following on his personal account: "MPS decides NOT to cooperate to Raajje TV [sic]. A statement will be released today."

Raajje TV, for those not following CPJ's Maldives coverage, is aligned with the political opposition. The station's journalists cite a pattern of police harassment following what they describe as a military coup in February, which forced Maldivian Democracy Party (MDP) founder Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency. MDP activists have vowed to hold street protests until Nasheed's successor, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, calls presidential elections. Hassan's government says Nasheed resigned, and the MDP's violent demonstrations make the country too unstable to call a vote this year. They say Raajje TV journalists are on the streets as activists, not as objective observers.

On Sunday, Raajje TV broadcast closed-circuit footage that purportedly showed police officers siphoning gas from a private motorbike, according to local independent news website Minivan News. Police said the officers were confiscating the equipment as evidence, and were not stealing anything, according to Minivan News. Raajje TV told the website that police had declined comment prior to its broadcast. The Broadcasting Commission has ordered Raajje TV to apologize, and the station said it was seeking legal advice, local news reports said.

That was the backdrop to Riyaz' tweet and the police statement that followed. We haven't seen a full English translation of the statement, but Minivan News and Haveeru Online both cite excerpts. "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," the Minivan News translation reads.

What does it mean for police to deny cooperation to a news outlet? Police spokesman Hassan Haneef told CPJ by telephone he would respond to emailed questions, and we'll share his comments as soon as we get them. In the meantime, the debate about possible interpretations is playing out online. Here are some comments, edited for clarity, from both sides:

@progressiveprt: Hatemongoring and spreading fabricated news by RaajjeTV in Maldives cannot be freedom [of] expression

@Raajje_tv: Maldives police ... will not corporate with RaajjeTV putting our staff and journalists at a greater risk

@anuahsa: #Maldives Police officially decides to not 'cooperate' with @Raajje_tv. No protection for journalists?

@TroxBro: will not cooperate or will not protect?

@shafaum: whn journalists behave more like activists u dont giv them protections [sic]

CPJ's take? The safety of all journalists must be assured. "All sides must respect the role of news outlets and allow journalists free and safe access to cover the protests as they continue to unfold," CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz said this month.

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Comments

Raaje TV started its broadcast nationwide just a few days back , a month back the coup government denied sattelite uplink for bizzare political reasons. its a Coup and as the TV channel starts to unfold the truth Self Claimed Police commissioner has sent his goons to attack the cameraman and reporters several times , they even beat up one of the reporters as he started shooting police brutality during a protest, they have pepper sprayed and occassionally verbally abused and given death threats numerouse times. Now as more evidence being unfolded and broadcasted the whole nation wide,the current regime's trying to find a reason to block the tv channel (the only channel helping to voice out the Brutality since feb 7th this year).
As for the members of MBC they have decided to align themselves with extremists who are openely calling out to behead those who report anything against the current illegal government. before the feb 7th coup DhiTV and VTV openly called to execute nasheed and beat up his follows for 17 nights. They aired live demonstrations where public and private buildings got vandalized.The sad part is MBC kept quite during that time. Please ask for the Chairman of MBC who openly accused the then government of being laadheenee (un-islamic) he who had equal shared in helping to spread hatred amongst the maldivian people.

minivan news is NOT an independent news website. its run with MDP funding and is biased for MDP.

Dear Editor
to add on this info - and to clarify the "petrol case" is just one of many where the "police{ (to be friendly) forces "cross the police lines" :
a) also on CCTV, a police officer is seen stealing a mobile phone from a shop
b) uniformed people rob a group of migrant workers in their house
c) a police officer targets and succeeds to pepper spray president Anni - TV-footage and youtube. Police denies even that it was a police officer.

No need to add here that there are so many examples of police brutalities ... again youtube, deleted by media under control of regime - but downloaded and again published.

It's simple, it is indeed a militia !

I get not only the message the Maldivian Police not cooperating with the RajjeTV, But short of a warning that it will not be protected by the POLICE, meaning to say they will be arrested at will of the police. This is very likely as they will be covering the peaceful demonstration of the MDP member which happens every day. What the police do on almost every day is walk through the crowd and arrest just any body they like at random.

The Police is a state institution. Its not a private security firm. Police's duty is to protect and serve the entire nation. What we saw before our eyes on Feb 6,7,8 is unacceptable. When people speak of their negligence, inapt and complete disregard to the brutality right before our eyes, police come back to intimidate the average person on the street with batons, tear gas, court warrants. The fact of the matter is police is failing to protect and serve. The institution is rogue and do not have the will to establish a modern police force during a democratic transition. The first statement from the coup-installed Police Commissioner was 'we will make the police an institution people will fear' - This is their mentality. The only TV station (RaajjeTV) that has the courage to report on their mistakes, continued abuse of power, systemic and systematic human rights abuse (exact words of the UNHRC last week)-- they get sidelined, harassed and threatened. The regimes grip on media is fairly strong -- while there are 3 stations, 2 are controlled by tourism tycoons who are in bed with the regime -- their editorial policy is highly questionable - when thousands of people have continued to be on the streets ac cross the country, they refuse to say anything else besides MDP is a 'militant party' and journalists sadly are not reporting and painting the accurate picture on the said channels. Bottom line, Riyaz's statement is very wrong and a very clear indication of a rogue police force - Police cannot pick and choose on whom they want to cooperate - it is their duty and they are mandated to protect and serve.

I have been a witness to the events unfolding in the Maldives from February 2012 and before. I have been watching the deepening political divide which has been cutting into families and friends and colouring the nation spreading pure hatred which has been turning violent.

On the subject of the moment I would talk on Raaje TV, a small station which functions as the Media Department of MDP.

Raaje TV is run by a group of young "reporters/activists" guided by MDP. Their Skills on journalism and best practices in the profession is limited.

CPJ being a responsible body I would urge for them to get footage of this particular report by Raaje TV on "police stealing petrol", get it subtitled and judge for yourself as to the level of "journalism" practiced by Raaje TV. Its a classic example of "reporting" done by them.

This being said, all media in Maldives is highly coloured and functions openly to propel one political party or personality.

And the police statement of non cooperation with Raaje TV is a worrying development for media freedom in Maldives.

State institutions in the Maldives have failed miserably. Most of all the Police and the Human Rights Commission. Atrocities are evident everyday on the streets of Male' when armed police attack unarmed civilians who are only asking for their inalienable right to elections and a legitimate govt.

The Police in the Maldives no longer serve the whole population, they are there to serve and protect a faction of the population - those that have taken sides of the coup government.

The CP fails to understand that he and his institution are no longer adhering to the oath they took but rather are serving a rogue regime hellbent on covering up the coup; not surprising because the CP himself is one of the masterminds behind the coup.

The scariest thing is the government itself has made it official that RajjeTV journalists are not Journalists. Anyone with opposing views against the government either she/he is targetted by political employed thugs or the Police , both beat us up in public. no investigations till this day.

There are no journalists in rajje Tv, they are only MDP activists threatening and calling to kill police, So there's no reason to cooperate with Rajje Tv, Unbiased news and promoting MDP only

i am actually shocked by reports like these by CPJ. i see that CPJ has been getting information from Maldives Journalist Association which is funded by the present regime. The president of MJA ahmed zahir was protesting on 6th and 7th and there were pics of him asking protestors to say this and that. its high time you send someone here and get inside info clearly rather listen to those so called media freedom fighters who are working closely with the present regime.

Is this CPJ only listening to minivan news?

CPJ pls have an eye on Maldives in the last week of this month as the comission of national inquiry CONI issues its statement whether its a coup or not or did the President resign under duress. already medias have been warned ...pls get the latest info about whats happening to the reporters on that day

concerned maldivian August 16, 2012 2:15:47 AM ET