Three journalists who were arrested during a protest last Wednesday have been released, but may still face charges.
Police detained the three, two from Raajje TV and another from Channel One, for “obstructing police business”. They were released on Monday evening after five days in custody, but a police media official said they could still be charged.
“If they get enough evidence to support a case we will forward the case to the prosecutor general. We will not make exceptions for journalists,” he said.
Raajje TV has condemned the arrests, saying the journalists were just doing their jobs.
Adam Zareer, a Raajje TV cameraman who was held, told Minivan News of his arrest: “All I heard was some saying ‘Take him!’ and then suddenly I was being dragged away with my camera and mic. They did not tell me why I was being arrested.”
Mohamed Wisam, also from Raajje TV, told Minivan News: “When our cameraman was being arrested, I asked the police why he was being arrested. Then they said, ‘Okay, you’re obstructing us now,’ and then they arrested me.”
Local media had reported Zareer was held for refusing to switch off his camera light, but he said this was not correct. Police had complained about the light on a previous evening, and Zareer had moved away, but the light was not an issue on the evening of his arrest.
Mohamed Niyaz, a journalist from Channel One, was also held.
All three were taken to Dhoonidhoo detention center and strip-searched.
“We are not criminals or dangers to society. However, we report about such people and when we were put in the same cell block as them, it was quite frightening for us,” said Wisam.
In a court hearing, police said the three had been detained because they were pushing past barricaded areas and pushing the shields of Special Operations officers. The journalists denied the claim and said they had been carrying press passes.
Raajje TV, whose office has previously been attacked, said last week it was standing by its reporters.
The arrests follow a series of attacks on journalists that have given rise to concerns over press freedom.
In August 2014, Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan went missing; he has still not been found. Four arrests were initially made, but all of the suspects were released and authorities have not reported any further progress in the case.
Another journalist, Ibrahim “Asward” Waheed, nearly died after being assaulted with iron rods in February 2013. His case is still ongoing in court.