New York, October 7, 2013--Authorities in the Maldives should conduct a thorough and efficient investigation into an arson attack on the offices of a TV news station in Male, the capital, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At least six masked men broke in to the offices of pro-opposition news channel Raajje TV early today and used gasoline to set the studio on fire, according to CCTV footage released by Raajje TV and news reports. All broadcast equipment, transmission equipment, and computer systems were completely destroyed in the fire, according to Raajje TV. The station borrowed equipment and was able to restore limited service, according to a tweet by Raajje TV and news reports.
The assailants also stabbed a security guard, who was hospitalized and is in critical condition, according to news reports. No arrests have been made in connection with the attack, according to local reports.
The independent Maldives Media Council released a statement saying the attack was "aimed to permanent[ly] shut down" Raajje's broadcast service. The station is aligned with former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted from office last year.
Protests erupted in the country following a decision by the Supreme Court to postpone a run-off vote following last month's presidential elections. Nasheed won the first round of the election, but did not have the requisite 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off, according to news reports.
Police said they were investigating the attack on Raajje TV. Authorities increased military security at the offices of several media outlets following the attack, local reports said.
"We call on authorities in the Maldives to ensure the perpetrators behind this attack are apprehended and held accountable," said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. "The government must do everything in its power to ensure members of the media do not become targets during this turbulent period."
CPJ also documented an attack against the opposition station in August 2012. Unidentified men broke into its offices and severed cables, which led to the station's nationwide coverage being briefly interrupted. Two weeks before that attack, police had issued a statement saying the station had broadcast "deliberately false and slanderous contents to undermine the credibility and public confidence towards police," according to an English translation of the statement.
- For more data and analysis, visit CPJ's Maldives page here.
(Video courtesy YouTube)