New York, August 9, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Maldives authorities to withdraw fines against and stop targeting the opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV. The Maldives Broadcasting Commission yesterday fined Raajje TV 2 million Maldivian rufiyaa (US$130,000)-- the largest amount it can impose-- for airing a politician's statement made at an opposition demonstration in March, which the commission said was defamatory toward Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and threatened national security, according to news reports.
The fine is the fourth the commission, whose members are appointed by the president and approved by parliament, has imposed on the station since March 2017 and comes ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September 23. In a statement, Raajje TV said that the fine did not have legal standing.
"The exorbitant and repeated fines against Raajje TV are clearly intended to cripple the TV station and amounts to a direct attack on what's left of press freedom in the Maldives," said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. "The only conclusion is that President Abdulla Yameen Abdulla Gayoom is afraid the electorate won't choose him if it has a chance to hear critical coverage and opposing views."
The station can appeal after it pays the fine. The previous three fines totaled 1.7 million Maldivian rufiyaa (US$110,408), and the appeals are still pending, according to the Raajje statement. CPJ has previously documented how the repeated defamation fines against Raajje TV appear to be politically motivated and an attempt to shut down critical reporting.