The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has condemned the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for “obstructing” reporters and appealed for media representatives to refrain from taking part in opposition protests.
The MDP has held regular street protests in recent months calling for early elections, alleging former President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a “coup d’état” on February 7, 2012.
In two separate press releases titled “MDP obstructing journalists” and “Political parties are using reporters as weapons,” the MJA said it had received reports of the arrest of two reporters on Monday. The association claimed the confrontation occurred between police and reporters when journalists had violated their code of ethics.
Police claim the two reporters were arrested for obstructing police duty. However, private broadcaster Raajje TV’s News Head Asward Ibrahim Waheed said he was arrested while attempting to cover a policeman beating an unarmed protester.
Video footage of Waheed’s arrest appears to show several police officers running at and surrounding Waheed as another officer held a protester down and beat him on the ground a few feet away. Waheed told Minivan News the police had grabbed his neck, twisted his arm and thrown him to the ground.
Raajje TV released a statement today claiming police harassed, verbally abused and used disproportionate force against its reporters.
“The station views these targeted attacks as calculated and planned to destroy press freedom in the Maldives,” the statement said.
The MDP has also condemned “the constant intimidation and discrimination of opposition media by Police operating at the protest areas.”
Code of ethics
The MJA said it had received reports of protesters obstructing journalists and reports of security forces also detaining reporters during demonstrations held on Sunday and Monday.
The association claimed confrontation between security forces and reporters occurred when journalists had acted as “political activists”. The MJA said it continued to hold concerns over journalists violating their code of ethics by taking part in protests.
“We note with concern confrontation occurs between security forces and journalists, often resulting in physical injury when journalists fail [to adhere by their code of ethics],” the press release said.
Hence, the association appealed to journalists to refrain from becoming “political tools” and called on political parties “not to use reporters as political tools.” The MJA also called on the government and security forces to ensure an environment conducive to independent journalism.
In cases where a journalist is arrested, the MJA has asked for such incidents to be reported to the Maldives Media Council and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission in order to “increase trust and strengthen relationships between the media and reporters.”
Meanwhile, Raajje TV has claimed the station’s reporters had received “various forms of harassment and verbal abuse from the Maldives Police Service” as they attempted to cover MDP’s protests held in Male’ yesterday (July 9).
“It was ardently clear the Maldives Police Service were discriminating against Raajje TV journalists and cameraman,” the statement read.
Police attempted to prevent coverage of the protest, “viciously attacked Asward Ibrahim Waheed” and arrested him in a most “degrading and inhumane manner,” the station alleged.
When the station’s cameraman attempted to film Waheed’s arrest, the police attacked the cameraman and “maliciously damaged” the station’s equipment, Raajje TV said.
“Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment has been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees,” the statement added.