New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature

New regulations enacted yesterday will subject the publication of prose and poetry in the Maldives to government approval.

The stated purpose of the ‘Regulations on approving literature published in the Maldives’ (Dhivehi) is “ensuring that literature published or made public in the Maldives fit Maldivian laws and regulations as well as societal norms”.

The rules are aimed at “reducing adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature.”

The new rules sparked an immediate outcry on social media, including suggestions from former majlis speaker, Abdulla Shahid, that basic constitutional and human rights were being threatened.

The regulations prohibit publishing literary material without seeking approval from the national bureau of classification and prescribes a fine of between MVR500 (US$32) and MVR5,000 (US$324) for violations.

An additional MVR1,000 (US$64) would be imposed for repeat violations.

Moreover, if a publication is found in a court of law to contain “false information”, the approval would be revoked and the person or party would not be granted further approval for a period of one year after payment of fines for the first offence.

Approval would not be granted for three years and five years for the second and third offences, respectively.

“Books must be published in the Maldives after seeking approval from the national bureau of classification,” states section 6(a) of the regulations published in the government gazette yesterday.

However, books or pamphlets published by a political party, association, company or state institution to disseminate information among members or staff would be exempt from the requirement.

“A poem must be made public in the Maldives after seeking approval from the national bureau of classification,” states section 11(a).

Section 11(b) explains that the rule applies to “any form of publication, a separate recording or an album for sale, inclusion in a film or documentary, broadcasting or telecasting, making public through the internet, and circulating as a ring-tone.”

The regulations define books as any piece of writing, photography or artwork published either printed on paper between covers or “electronically, digitally or otherwise.”

The rules apply to publications on the internet.

The regulations also require the national bureau of classification to compile a registry of members for granting approval for publications.

“Books and poetry shall be published in the Maldives in accordance with decisions by members on the registry,” states section 13.

The conditions for membership include being a Maldivian citizen aged 30 years above and a Sunni Muslim. If a member has been convicted of a criminal offence, five years must have elapsed since either the sentence was served or a pardon was granted.

Additionally, members must have at least 10 years of experience in the relevant publishing field.

In granting approval for publication, the regulations state that members must consider whether the piece of literature “fits Islam, Maldivians laws and regulations, and societal norms.”

Moreover, members must consider the potential negative impact on society from the published material.

Section 15(c) states that members must respect the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution as well as “constructive new thinking”.

Along with a copy of the manuscript of the book or poem, a form seeking approval and a MVR50 revenue stamp must be submitted to the national bureau of classification.

Publishers must also submit a form seeking an ISB (international standard book) number.


Meanwhile, former Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has condemned the government’s “decision to impose pre-publication censorship.”

The regulations violate Article 27, 28 and 29 of the Constitution, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP tweeted today.

Article 27 guarantees “the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam,” whist Article 29 ensures “the freedom to acquire and impart knowledge, information and learning.”

Article 28 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of the press, and other means of communication, including the right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information, views and ideas. No person shall be compelled to disclose the source of any information that is espoused, disseminated or published by that person.”

The regulations were also contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Maldives’ commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Shahid contended.

The regulations have prompted a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts from Maldivians expressing concern over censorship.


IFJ and MJA again urge government to expedite Rilwan case

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Maldives Journalists’ Association (MJA) released a further press statement expressing concerns over “the slow progress made in the search of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla”.

“Today marks one month since Rilwan was last seen yet the IFJ remains critical of the investigation and the release of information by the authorities,” the statement dated September 8 reads.

“The huge public response to Rilwan’s disappearance shows the strong desire for justice and answers, not only by his journalistic colleagues but the public at large,” the statement quotes IFJ acting director Jane Worthington as saying.

Rilwan was last spotted on CCTV footage at the Hulhumalé Ferry Terminal. Eye witnesses report seeing a man fitting Rilwan’s description being forced into a vehicle at knife point in front of his residence at approximately the time Rilwan would have reached his residence.

The IFJ states that evidence found by Minivan News – later corroborated by other media outlets – suggests Rilwan was abducted, while the authorities have so far not provided any information which links the reported abduction in Hulhumalé to Rilwan’s disappearance.

“One month on, the demand for answers remains strong and if the figures the police provide are correct, there is vital information that is not being shared with the media that might find the culprits behind his disappearance,” said the statement.

The IFJ previously released a statement last month calling upon authorities to undertake a full investigation with the “utmost seriousness, with all findings released to the public.”

“The disappearance of journalists is a serious matter and full support must be provided to the family,” read the August statement.

Rilwan’s family have resorted to lobbying the People’s Majlis in order to gain information about the investigation, noting last week that police updates on the investigation did not included evidence on progress.

The most recent police statement noted that they had questioned 318 individuals, interrogated 111, searched 139 locations in Hulhumalé and conducted dives to search 267,197.5 square meters of ocean.

“These are just statistics,” responded Rilwan’s brother, Moosa at the time. “We want to find him. We want the police to tell us if they have any leads, if there is progress”.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives and the Maldives Democracy Network have also suggested the police should be conducting investigations more transparently. The UK government has this week expressed concern over the disappearance.

Speaking to Minivan News today, police media officials said  that there were no further developments in the investigation that could be shared with media or the public.

Meanwhile, Rilwan’s family and friends continue in their efforts to find him and spread awareness about the disappearance.

In a social media campaign dubbed ‘Find Moyameehaa‘ – referring to the pseudonym adopted by Rilwan on social media – friends and family have so far conducted various activities in the streets of Malé.

Efforts included the gathering of 5000 signatures on the Majlis petition in just over one week, and a gathering for families victims of violent crimes.

“Friends and family will once again be meeting the public on Friday afternoon from 4 to 6pm at the Artificial Beach,” Rilwan’s long time friend Yameen Rasheed explained.

According to Yameen, Friday’s event will be focused on addressing questions surrounding Rilwan’s suspected abduction, spreading information about Rilwan and the loss society will face in losing young minds like him, sharing various literary works he has produced, and conducting a special prayer in hope of his quick and safe return.


UK foreign office expresses concern over Maldives’ human rights situation and Rilwan disappearance

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has expressed concern over the human rights situation in the Maldives, as well as the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

“We are also concerned by reports that parliamentarians, human rights advocates and journalists have recently been the target of death threats, and by the disappearance and apparent abduction of one journalist on 8 August,” said Minister of State at the FCO Hugo Swire.

Swire’s comments came in response to a written question submitted by Conservative Party MP Karen Lumley.

The minister expressed concern over freedom of religion, rule of law, and women’s rights, as well as reports of death threats made against a number of politicians and MPs in recent months.

Former health minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela is the latest to have reported having received death threats. Similar messages have been received by multiple journalists and politicians, including Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Rilwan, 28-years-old, was last seen on the Malé-Hulhumalé ferry on August 8, just minutes before his neighbours saw a man fitting his description forced into a car outside his apartment.

“Officials at our high commission in Colombo, which is also accredited to the Maldives, have raised concerns on human rights, as well as the recent threats and this reported disappearance, with the Maldives Government,” reported Swire.

“We have also urged them to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted as appropriate. The Maldives Government has expressed deep concern following the disappearance, and noted that they are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all Maldivians,” he continued.

While Rilwan’s disappearance has been highlighted by many international groups – including the UN, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists – the FCO’s comments mark the first time the case has been mentioned by a foreign government.

There is little information regarding Rilwan’s disappearance despite a MVR200,000 reward being offered by his family and a petition signed by 5000 people submitted to the People’s Majlis.

The petition called upon the legislature to find answers to questions regarding the police’s investigations. Similar concerns regarding the investigation’s progress have been raised by the Human Rights Commission and civil society groups.

After police released a statement on Thursday night (August 4) – claiming it had questioned 318 individuals, interrogated 111, and searched 139 locations – Rilwan’s family voiced concerns over the case’s progress.

“These are just statistics. We want to find him. We want the police to tell us if they have leads, if there is progress,” said Rilwan’s brother Moosa.

“We want to know what the results of these extensive searches are. It’s been a month, my family and I fear for his life.”


Protesters march with IS flag calling for enforcement of Islamic Shariah

A protest march took place in Malé yesterday with participants bearing the militant organisation Islamic State’s (IS) flag calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

‘We want the laws of the Quran, not the green book [Maldivian constitution]’, ‘Islam will eradicate secularism’, ‘No democracy, we want just Islam’, and ‘Shariah will dominate the world’, read some of the placards, which were all written in English.

‘To hell with democracy’, ‘Democracy is a failed system’, ‘Shariah gave you the rights, not democracy”, ‘Shariah is the only solution’, and ‘No Shariah = no peace’, read others.

Some 200 people, including about 30 women in black niqab and 10 children, took part in the march across the capital.

Shortly after the march began near the social centre on the western end of Majeedheemagu – the main thoroughfare of the capital – police reportedly stopped the protesters near the Nalahiya Hotel and demanded they stop using the black IS flag.

Police told the protesters they have been previously informed that the flag of a particular organisation could not be used.

“The call has been made, the flags have been raised,” read one of the placards.

However, the protesters reportedly insisted that the flag did not represent IS but was the seal of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and contained the phrase of the Shahadha (the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and Mohamed as the messenger).

After a brief exchange, police allowed the march to continue, which made its way down Majeedhee Magu to the tsunami memorial area.

On their way, participants reportedly handed out sweets to children with spectators on the street.

The march ended with a special communal prayer wishing success for Islamic ‘mujahidheen’ (holy warriors) fighting in conflicts across the world.


In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

The ISIS or IS jihadist militant group – which has declared an Islamic caliphate in territory held across Iraq and Syria – has been accused by the UN of committing mass murders against prisoners, enemy combatants, and civilians.

“IS is using the veil of religion as a pretext for inflicting terror, and committing violations of human rights,” said Dunya, daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece of current President Abdulla Yameen.

Dunya’s remarks followed Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the ISIS would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.

“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on August 24.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), however, promptly put out a statement questioning Shaheem’s sincerity, suggesting that the words had not been backed up with concrete action by the government.

“We note with concern that neither the Islamic minister nor the government has taken any action while activities related to terrorism in different forms as well as extremism are carried out in the Maldives, religious strife and hatred is incited widely, and death threats are being made against various people over religious matters,” the main opposition party said.

The party noted that the ISIS flag was used in recent protests in Malé calling for a boycott of Israeli tourists.

While the protesters had gathered outside the residence of the Islamic minister in violation of freedom of assembly laws, the MDP noted that the government had not taken any action.

The Islamic ministry has also provided a meeting hall of the Islamic centre for a religious sermon which was advertised with the ISIS logo, the MDP claimed.

The party claimed to have learned that police and army officers were involved in putting up the banners across the capital.

Opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reported last month that a Facebook group called Islamic State in Maldives was promoting IS in the country.

The group has shared photos of the protests calling for a ban on Israeli tourists.


Family of Rilwan submit petition with 5000 signatures to People’s Majlis

The family of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla have submitted a petition calling for the Majlis’s national security committee to find answers to questions regarding his disappearance 27 days ago.

“We have submitted the petition with over 5000 signatures and we hope we will get the support from the members of all parties in our quest to find our brother,”

Today’s petition asked the national security committee to request relevant authorities to give answers to questions which “arose due to the negligence of the Maldives Police Services in searching for Rilwan.”

Additionally, the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has today written an open letter (Dhivehi) to the Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, expressing its own concerns about the investigation and requesting a public response.

MDN’s letter noted that the police service “has a responsibility to reveal information regarding the case in a manner which will bring satisfaction to the concerned public, to a level where you do not lose the trust that the public holds in you.”

The Human Rights Commission has already released a statement noting that it had yet to be updated on the authorities’ attempts to locate the missing journalist, having made a request for information more than two weeks ago.

MDN’s letter requested information on the following points:

- Whether the reported confiscation of a vehicle and orders for a number of arrests are related to witness reports of a man being forced into a car outside Rilwan’s home just minutes after his last confirmed sighting.

- The apparent failure of police to follow the norms of procedure in foreign countries which includes making public photos of the victim and providing a contact for the public to call with information regarding the person

- Potential cooperation between police and friends and family of Rilwan who have continued activities to raise awareness of the disappearance, including communication regarding activities that could hinder investigations.

The unresolved questions in the family’s petition also included whether standard procedures were being followed and whether links with a reported abduction had been properly explored.

“These are also matters on which state institutions have so far conducted no work in order to reach the truth,” read the petition submitted this morning.

Prior to the petition, Rilwan’s family had presented MPs with a letter last week requesting their help in the search.

“Hear our plea. Please. I’m calling on all leaders. We are going to all leaders in the Maldives. We are telling them please calm our hearts. For Allah’s sake, please tell us what has happened to our son,” Rilwan’s mother, Aminath Easa, pleaded with authorities.

In response to a letter from Easa earlier this week, the campaign to find Rilwan continued yesterday as hundreds of people affected by violent crime gathered at Malé City Hall to call for justice.


HRCM uncertain as to state’s actions in Rilwan case

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has again suggested that authorities are not doing enough in the search for missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

After seeking updates on the case from both the the foreign minister and attorney general on August 19, the HRCM noted that it had not seen “any further efforts from the state following the appeal”.

“The commission brought Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla’s case to the attention of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of expression through the UN’s special procedures, and the commission has been monitoring the state’s actions in the case of [Rilwan’s] disappearance,” read today’s statement.

Today’s statement said that HCRM members had met with police on August 28, urging them to use all resources to expedite their investigation.

Before working for Minivan News, Rilwan had been an employee of the HRCM between 2010 and 2012.

Calls to speed up the search for Rilwan – last seen on the Malé-Hulhumalé ferry in the early hours of August 8 – have been echoed by numerous international groups, including the UN and Reporters Without Borders.

Neighbours reported seeing a man fitting Rilwan’s description being forced into a vehicle outside his apartment at around 2am on August 8.

The most recent update from police came last week when Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed explained that 80 statements had been taken after questioning nearly 200 people.

Waheed also explained that multiple locations around the capital had been searched, including the lagoon around Hulhumalé, while nearly 300 hours of CCTV were being analysed.

Minivan News also learned last week that the passports of four men were being held in relation to the disappearance.

Working ceaselessly

“As it has been 26 days since Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla disappeared without a trace, the commission has been ceaselessly doing all it can,” read today’s HRCM statement.

Friends and family of Rilwan, also known to his twitter followers as moyameehaa, have also been campaigning tirelessly for greater action on the part of authorities.

Rilwan’s mother has urged all families of victims of violent crime to work together to ensure justice, calling for meeting to be held for all those affected by such incidents in Malé City Hall tonight at 9pm.

“It is the Maldives Police Services tasked with protecting our children and us. It is the courts tasked with ensuring justice for us in times of injustice,” said Aminath Easa in an open letter this week.

“However, we have to work together to expedite their services and hold them accountable,” she continued.

After demonstrating against the People’s Majlis’ failure to adequately address the issue, campaigners have collected over 4000 signatures on a petition calling on relevant authorities to provide answers to question that remain outstanding due to perceived police negligence.

Media groups have also provided a united front in the search for Rilwan, coordinating closely with campaigners to raise awareness of the disappearance.

Additionally, journalists representing all private outlets have jointly expressed grave concern over what they believe to have been an abduction, calling for an end to the persistent intimidation of the press.

Raajje TV’s staff yesterday donned black and blurred presenter’s faces on news segments regarding the disappearance as a show of support for the #findmoyameehaa campaign


Jihadist media claims two more Maldivians killed in Syria

Online Jihadist group Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) have claimed two more Maldivians have been killed in the Syrian civil war.

“Martyred brothers in the yesterdays operation include Abu Dujana Maldifi, Abu Ibrahim Maldifi and Abu Ukasha Indonesi,” read a post on the BASM facebook page today.

The latest reports follow similar stories in May when two Maldivians – who had taken the names of Abu Nuh and Abu Turab – were said to have been killed after travelling to Syria for jihad

While the group claims that Abu Dujana was the founder and editor of the BASM page, the group has not provided any information regarding his real identity, stating that this omission was at the request of his mother.

Local media has, however, identified Abu Dujana as Yameen Naeem of Georgia in the Maafannu ward of the capital Malé. It is reported that the man, in his early twenties, travelled to Syria after studying in Egypt.

BASM – which Minivan News has learned has members situated in both Syria and the Maldives – has previously claimed that its members arrive in Syria from numerous points of destinations, and that many were students.

The group has previously criticised incumbent President Abdulla Yameen, describing his presidential win as “a victory for Jahiliyya [ignorance] over Jahiliyya” and has condemned the Maldives National Defence Force as “fighters in the devil’s path”.

While other senior figures in the government refused to take a definitive stance on the issue of Jihad, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed in July urged Maldivians to refrain from participating in foreign wars.

“Islamic jihad is that waged with sincerity, in the name of Allah, in defense of religion and nation, behind a designated Muslim leader, and against enemies of Islam and nation,” Shaheem said, adding that fighting between two Muslim groups cannot be described as jihad.

Shaheem said Maldivian militants who go abroad must not be punished, but be rehabilitated and informed of religious teachings.

Admitting to growing radicalisation in the Maldives, Shaheem said the media and scholars must help the government in its effort to educate the public.

Radicalisation begins with praying in separate communities, refusing to register marriages at court, and declaring other Muslims infidels, Shaheem said.

The rise of religious radicals within the Maldives has been noted by numerous group both locally and internationally.

While the Maldivian Democratic Party has recently accused security services of fostering radical elements – a claim rejected by authorities, the then acting prosecutor general Hussein Shameem called for the state to take the issue more seriously.

Last week Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon again spoke in support of moderate Islam, condemning the atrocities of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The US State Department’s 2013 country report on terrorism noted that local laws “severely limit” the prosecution of cases associated with violent extremism. Then acting prosecutor general Hussein Shameem in March called for the state to take the issue more seriously.

The US expressed growing concern since 2010 “about the activities of a small number of local violent extremists involved with transnational terrorist groups”.

“There has been particular concern that young Maldivians, including those within the penal system, may be at risk of becoming radicalized and joining violent Islamist extremist groups. Links have been made between Maldivians and violent extremists throughout the world,” the report stated.


MDP questions sincerity of Islamic minister’s stance on ISIS

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has questioned the sincerity of Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.

“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on Sunday night (August 24).

The main opposition party contended in a press release yesterday that Shaheem’s statement was “duplicitous” and “insincere” as it was not backed up with concrete action by the government.

“We note with concern that neither the Islamic minister nor the government has taken any action while activities related to terrorism in different forms as well as extremism are carried out in the Maldives, religious strife and hatred is incited widely, and death threats are being made against various people over religious matters,” the statement read.

The party noted that the ISIS flag was used in recent protests in Malé calling for a boycott of Israeli tourists. While the protesters had gathered outside the residence of the Islamic minister in violation of freedom of assembly laws, the MDP noted that the government had not taken any action.

The Islamic ministry has also provided a meeting hall of the Islamic centre for a religious sermon which was advertised with the ISIS logo, the MDP claimed.

The party claimed to have learned that police and army officers were involved in putting up the banners across the capital.

Dr Afrasheem

The MDP also accused the government of not attempting to find the “real killers” of murdered MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, noting that the moderate religious scholar had faced harassment over his liberal views.

Referring to his last television appearance, the party said Dr Afrasheem’s remarks suggested he was “forced” to support radical religious ideology.

Appearing on a live talk show on state broadcaster Television Maldives, Dr Afrasheem had said he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness if he had created a misconception due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.

Islamic Minister Shahaeem was quoted in local media at the time as saying that his ministry had not forced Dr Afrasheem to offer a public apology in his last television appearance.

Dr Afrasheem’s moderate positions on subjects such as music had drawn stringent criticism from more conservative religious elements, who dubbed him “Dr Ibilees” (“Dr Satan”).

In 2008, the scholar was kicked and chased outside a mosque after Friday prayers, while in May 2012, the religious Adhaalath Party released a statement condemning Afrasheem for allegedly “mocking the Sunnah”.

NGO Salaf had meanwhile released at least a dozen statements against the late Dr Afrasheem at the time of his death. In a three-page press release (Dhivehi) on July 10, 2008, Salaf listed Dr Afrasheem’s alleged transgressions and advised him to “fear Allah, stop talking any way you please of things you do not know of in the name of religion and [stop] twisting [Islamic] judgments to suit your personal wishes”.

The NGO also called on the public not to listen to “any religious fatwa or any religious talk” from the scholar.

Extremist ideology

The MDP statement meanwhile noted that the US State Department’s 2013 country report on terrorism had stated that “Maldivian authorities believe that funds are currently being raised in Maldives to support terrorism abroad”.

While the report observed that “the Maldivian Central Bank believes that criminal proceeds mainly come from domestic sources, as a large percentage of Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) are related to Maldivians,” the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) denied it had any knowledge of such activities.

“The MMA has neither received nor communicated any information regarding confirmed operation of terrorist financing activities,” the central bank insisted in a statement.

The MDP said it believes such activities were aided and abetted by both foreign groups and Maldivians, adding that the activities were “well organised” and carried out with “funding and training”.

“There has been particular concern that young Maldivians, including those within the penal system, may be at risk of becoming radicalised and joining violent Islamist extremist groups. Links have been made between Maldivians and violent extremists throughout the world,” the US report stated.

The party also argued that extremism in the Maldives was encouraged by the mass gathering held on December 23, 2011 to “defend Islam” against the allegedly secularist policies of former President Mohamed Nasheed as well as a pamphlet issued by the party of current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Dr Jameel’s Dhivehi Qaumee Party had issued a pamphlet titled “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians.”

Both the December 23 demonstration and the pamphlet were intended to sow discord and strife for political purposes, the party contended, and reiterated its claim that extremist ideologies were prevalent in the security services.

The party also referred to President Abdulla Yameen’s response when asked about Maldivians leaving to fight in the Syrian civil war following the death of a Maldivian militant in a suicide attack.

President Yameen’s remarks about the government not being involved in sending Maldivians to join militant organisations were “extremely irresponsible,” the MDP said.


Vnews editor receives SMS death threat after accusations of assault

Editor of Vnews Adam Haleem has received a death threat following heated confrontations during a meeting of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA).

“If you keep behaving however you like, we will make you disappear, we will behead you. Keep that in mind [expletive],” read the anonymous text message, received yesterday at 11:51pm.

The threat was received just minutes after the conclusion of an MJA meeting, in which local media outlet Vaguthu is claiming its Chief Editor Musharraf Hassan had been the victim of an attempted assault by Haleem.

The message received by Haleem comes just days after all media outlets gathered to call for an end to the culture of intimidation, after the recent abduction of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

Following last night’s disrupted meeting, MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir announced his resignation, citing the atmosphere as “not conducive” to hold the association’s scheduled elections.

Haleem, whose award-winning journalism career has also included stints at Sun Online and Haveeru, has rejected claims of an assault, as has the MJA which released a statement denying the incident occurred.

No other journalists present at the meeting have reported the attempted assault, said by Vaguthu to have involved a chair being aimed unsuccessfully at their editor. The paper has also alleged that both the MJA and Haveeru had defamed the paper in the subsequent reporting of events.

Haleem noted that the threatening text was received 15 minutes after the meeting ended, with Vaguthu soon reporting the assault having taken place.

He also noted that he had received messages last night which appeared to have come from Vnews owner and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, calling upon him to resign.

“Gasim called me after I received texts in his name and said he had not sent them. So we have to find out where these messages came from,” said Haleem.

Gasim himself was the subject of death threats last week, with the resort owner alleging opposition MPs to have been behind the text threats sent to the Jumhooree Party leader.

In a letter sent to Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed, Gasim suggested the threats had been sent using number duplicating software which gave the appearance of having been sent from a different individual.

Media concerned

The media’s growing concern over a number of attacks on staff and property prompted a landmark joint statement from all the country’s media outlets, signed on Saturday (August 23), expressing “grave concern” over the disappearance of Rilwan 17 days ago.

“We will not step back, or put down our pens, or silence our tongues, or hold our thoughts in the face of such threats. We will do whatever is necessary to secure our right,” it read.

“Efforts have always been made by various parties to silence journalists. Many journalists have been assaulted,” said the document, representing 12 different organisations.

As the police’s investigations into Rilwan’s disappearance continues, Police Commissioner Waheed met with senior officials from telecoms company Ooredoo regarding anonymous text threats.

As the threatening texts were “the issue that public has expressed concern with the most,” discussions focused on ways to speedily resolve the issue, explained a police press release.

Discussions were said to focus on “establishing a mechanism for identifying those who are sending messages to incite fear among citizens faster than at present and putting a stop to it.”

Around 15 journalists from across the media community received SMS threats in relation to their outlets’ coverage of gang-related violence earlier this month, while more threats were reported last week, making specific reference to Rilwan’s disappearance.

A text message sent to Minivan 97 journalist Aishath Aniya on August 20, from a sender identified as ‘ISIS’, read as follows:

“You are next on our hit list. Be careful when you walk alone. #fuckmoyameehaa.”