Editor of Haama News Saif Azhar was fined by civil court last Thursday for defaming the character of People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen.
Civil Court Judge Maryam Nihayath ruled that an article published in June last year claiming that Yameen had US$32 million in his HSBC bank account was defamatory.
Saif was fined Rf5000 (US$385), currently the maximum penalty for defamation in the Maldives. Yameen also has lawsuits pending against Ibrahim Waheed, the journalist who wrote the article, the editor of Jazeera Daily Fayyaz Faisal, the owner of Haama Daily (Axis Maldives) and Ahmed Muhsin, the assistant editor of TVM.
Yameen had sought Rf2,570,000 million (US$192,000) for psychological damages and Rf21,775,305 (US$1.67 million) for material damages, claims which were dismissed by the judge.
Azhar said he was not in town when the article was published and had no knowledge of it, claiming that his journalist Ibrahim Waheed had written the piece.
”In the article we mentioned that the source [of the information] was online news website Manadhoolive,” he said, ”but the judge decided that we had not referred to any source.”
He said the same article published in Haama News was also published in the newspaper Haveeru.
President of the Maldives Journalism Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said the association did not support journalists defaming people’s character.
”We do not support journalists writing stories without any evidence or proof,” he said. ”It’s a practice everywhere to fine journalists.”
Secretary General of the PA Ahmed Shareef said the outcome of the case showed that the country was strengthening its judicial service.
”Journalists have to be more responsible and careful when publishing articles,” he said.
Yameen failed to response Minivan News at time of press.
The former editor of weekly magazine Sandhaanu was also recently ordered to pay Rf5000 (US$389) for defaming Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon, the former president’s son.
Ghassan took Abdulla ‘Fahala’ Saeed to the civil court seeking Rf3.375 million (US$262,600) over an article Fahala had written in the 118th edition of Sandhaanu magazine.