Maldives Government Urged to Grant Licence to Independent Television Channel

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is informed by

affiliates and partners that the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM)

is delaying the grant of a broadcast licence to the independent television channel

Raajje TV.

 

Sources inform the IFJ that Raajje TV had applied for satellite uplink

permission in mid-June and been assured that its request would be processed in

accordance with established rules. Later, the CAM pleaded that it would only be

able to grant a temporary licence for uplinking, for possibly a period of six

months. On July 1 though, the CAM informed the Raajje TV management that their

application for a satellite uplink would not be granted, ostensibly because

broadcast policies were “under review”.

 

The Maldives Journalists’ Association (MJA), an IFJ affiliate has

expressed its concern over the delay, citing it as a breach of the guidelines

for permitting plural sources of news and opinions for the people of the Indian

Ocean republic.

 

“As this statement is issued, the MJA informs us that Raajje TV has been

granted temporary uplink permission for six months”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

 

“We welcome this development, even if it is provisional, and call for a

clear statement on the norms that will govern the use of the broadcast

spectrum, in a manner that will provide ample room for multiple voices and

opinions”.

 

Of the four TV broadcasters operating in the Maldives, one is controlled

by the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), an autonomous body established

under law. Though mandated to function independently, the MNBC is believed by

opposition parties and independent journalists, to be highly biased towards the

government that came to power on February 7, after a police revolt toppled the

elected president.

 

Of the private channels, two are owned by businessmen with known links

to the current regime, according to sources in the Maldives.

 

Raajje TV which is known to provide alternative news and opinions, is

currently confined to the narrow audience it can reach through cable

transmission in the capital city of Male. Satellite uplinking is key to

reaching a larger audience in the far flung archipelago.

 

“We urge the authorities in the Maldives to make the grant of uplinking

permissions the norm, subject only to a list, preferably small and clearly

defined, of ineligible entities”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

 

“Rather than control information flows, the priority should be to ensure

that multiple sources of news are available to the people of the republic in

this time of political transition”.

 

“A review of broadcast policy cannot be the basis for denial of such

permission, since such a review in today’s world can only move towards allowing

greater diversity and competition on the air-waves and not towards restricting

access”.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

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