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The Government condemns the BBC's unlawful attempts to influence the outcome of the Presidential Election held yesterday
Press Release Translation - Sunday, 19 October 2003
Yesterday, 17 October 2003, the BBC attempted unlawfully to influence voter opinion on the polling day of the 2003 Presidential Election which was held in the Maldives in full conformity with the Laws and Regulations of the country.
The BBC's attempt was made through a stream of news reports and video clips that were broadcast repeatedly during all news hours while the people of the country were casting their ballots in the general public vote. The reports made biased and derogatory remarks about the Constitution of the Maldives, the Presidential Election and the Government, relying on unsubstantiated allegations.
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had recently held a series of meetings with a cross-section of the society covering people of all walks of life, including the youth and women. Those meetings were held as open forums in which the participants expressed their views and concerns directly to the President. He had conducted the meetings in an open and free spirit, and elicited the people's concerns and requests first hand. The BBC's claim that any person who spoke out freely would be arrested was a gross misrepresentation of the state of affairs in the country.
Despite a busy schedule, the President, on 7 October 2003, gave an exclusive interview to the BBC which lasted for one hour and ten minutes. During the interview, the President answered at length all the questions posed to him by the BBC correspondent, and covered the socio-economic development of the country, its human rights record, and the state of the environment.
The President also arranged for the BBC's news team to visit the Maafushi Jail. In an interview with Television Maldives later that day, the BBC Correspondent stated that prison conditions at Maafushi were good and, in fact, much better than conditions in prisons that he had visited. However, this view was not reflected in his news report.
The BBC claims to be an organization capable of maintaining round the clock media coverage throughout the world, reporting events as they occurred and in an impartial and balanced manner. However, the BBC's selective use of the President's hour-long interview of 7th October, and the totally biased news reports that it aired repeatedly throughout the day on the 17th, as the people of the country were voting in the Presidential Election, cannot in any way be construed as a coincidence.
The electoral Laws of the Maldives impose a mandatory embargo on all attempts to influence the opinion of voters from 6.00 pm of the day preceding the scheduled polling day until 6.00 am of the day that follows the voting day. The BBC's report was broadcast repeatedly on the scheduled polling day. The Government notes that the Laws and Regulations of the Maldives do not exempt any party from compliance.
Therefore, the BBC's attempt yesterday cannot be construed as anything other than a flagrant violation of the Laws of the country and as an attempt to disrupt the peaceful political processes in the country. The Ministry of Information, Arts and Culture, on behalf of the Government of Maldives, condemns in the strongest terms this attempt by the BBC to destabilize the country and to disrupt the unity of the people of the Maldives.
The Government of the Maldives remains committed to deterring all illegal attempts, by nationals and foreigners alike, to disturb the peace and stability of the country.
18 October 2003
© Dhivehi Observer 2004