Two journalists charged in the Maldives
08 Apr, 2016
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the recent criminal charges against two journalists of the Raajje TV. The IFJ calls on the authorities to immediately review the charges.
Mohamad Wisam and Leevan Ali Naseer from the opposition-aligned Raajje TV have been served a summon notice to present themselves on criminal court on charges of obstructing the discharging of police duties last year. On November 2, 2015, they were arrested as they reported on the police and military attempts to defuse a bomb found near the Presidential Palace. Wisam was also arrested on March 25, 2015 during anti-government protests, and he is still facing charges for that incident.
Wisam has been asked to appear in court for a hearing on April 14 and 17, while Naseer has been ordered to pick up his summon from the criminal court. Raajje TV chief operating officer Mohamed Fiyaz was also arrested in November 2 along with Wisam and Naseer, but is yet to be charged.
Wisam and Naseer were among 18 journalists arrested on April 3 following peaceful protests in Male. Maldivian journalists organised a protest against recent attacks on press freedom in the Maldives, including the draft defamation bill and the shutdown of Haveeru.
Raajje TV has expressed shock and object to the decision to pursue criminal charges claiming that the journalists were vigilant in their duties as reporters to bring facts to the public. In a statement, it said: “The Raajje TV sees these acts as direct attacks on journalism and believes this is a clear indication that the government has no interest in protecting the rights of the journalists, and instead uses state institutions as tools to threaten free media in the Maldives.”
“Raajje TV calls upon state institutions to ensure that all activities to narrow and disrupt freedom of the press are brought to an immediate end… Raajje TV urges the Maldives’ authorities to immediately and unconditionally withdraw the charges brought against our journalists.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is deeply concerned by the declining press freedom situation in the Maldives and the charges on journalists indicate towards the weakening of democracy. The IFJ urges immediate review of the decision to ensure that journalists performing professional duties are not prosecuted under criminal charges.”
Police obstruct silent press freedom march scheduled for Friday afternoon
Maldives Police Service has warned that it would obstruct the silent press freedom march scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Speaking to RaajjeMV, the Police Media Official said that given “the level of instability” in the country, the police would not allow any group to hold a march on the streets of the capital city.
The march is set to take place at 4.30 p.m on Friday.
A demonstration calling for an end to media repression was held on Sunday as well.
While police used excessive force and pepper spray to disperse the protest, a total of sixteen journalists were arrested.
Although all of them were released the same day, some female journalists among those arrested claim that the police had strip-searched them twice.
Apart from this, the Prosecutor General’s Office has also charged RaajjeTV journalists Mohamed Wisaam and Leevaan Ali Naseer with obstruction of police duty.
Journalist Wisam has been summoned to the court to answer the charges on 14 and 17th April 2016.