The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has condemned the Criminal Court for barring journalist from a corruption hearing involving Parliament’s Deputy Speaker and People Alliance Party (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim.
The council issued the statement following the Criminal Court judge’s decision, stating that the court’s claim that journalists were blocked because they gave a negative perspective on the court was not probable grounds to disallow journalists from hearing the trial.
The Council said that the Criminal Court’s decision would prevent the court from gaining public confidence.
The MMC’s press statement said the decision to bar journalists from the trial was “a huge challenge” for people’s right to a free press, as outlined in the Constitution.
Last Thursday, the Criminal Court refused to allow journalists to observe the hearing of Nazim’s ongoing corruption trial. Nazim is facing charges of multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud the former Atolls Ministry.
Local dailies Haveeru and Sun Online reported that the hearing was scheduled to start at 12:00pm, but was actually conducted one hour earlier at 11:00pm. The court had not informed any of the reporters who registered at the court that morning of the time change.
According to Haveeru, court reporters who learned of the time change and requested entry were told that “the judge has decided to hold a closed hearing.”
When asked by reporters to offer a reason for the closed hearing, the court official asked the reporters to wait, went inside and did not appear until the hearing was over.
Almost two hours after the hearing concluded, Criminal Court Media Officer Ahmed Mohamed Manik told the court reporters that had not been allowed to enter because “negative perceptions of the court were being created [among the public] because of some journalists.”
Queried by the court reporters, the Criminal Court official insisted that the judge was authorised to exclude the public from trials under article 42 of the constitution. Members of the public were allowed to attend today’s hearing.
Under normal court procedure, only trials involving child sexual abuse are closed to the public.