Reporters Without Borders condemns arbitrary arrest of journalists for taking photos

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the growing number of arbitrary arrests of journalists by the Maldives Police Service.

In a statement, the press freedom NGO said it “deplores the repeated obstruction of media personnel in the course of their work and urges the government to put a stop to arrests designed to intimidate journalists and encourage self-censorship.”

The statement follows the arrest and detention of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Naish on August 30 while reporting on the arrest of a demonstrator. The area was not barricaded or otherwise designated off-limits by police.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef informed Minivan News at the time of the arrest that Naish had been arrested for “obstructing police duty.”

“Riot police known as Special Operations (SO) stopped Naish at 5:30pm in the Malé district of Sosun Magu as he was photographing them arresting a young demonstrator,” RSF reported.”They asked him for his press pass, which he did not have on him at the time, and, after refusing to accept his business card as identification, handcuffed him and led him away.”

“My hands were tied behind my back with a clip and the SO officer who did so kept tightening it,” Naish said, in his account to RSF. “Another officer kept pinching my arms and hitting my ankles with his boot, telling me to walk faster.”

More people were arrested, including two who had been taking photographs or videos of the police, RSF reported.

“They were bundled into a vehicle and taken to police headquarters and then transferred to a detention centre on Dhoonidhoo, an island just to the north of the capital,” the statement read.

“They took my personal belongings (…) I was then photographed and taken before an investigating officer who informed me that I was arrested for obstructing police duty and causing public disorder. I refused to sign the arrest form because, in addition to stating a false reason for the arrest, the place of arrest noted in the form was incorrect,” Naish informed RSF.

“After being placed in a large cell with other people arrested during the demonstration, Naish asked to see a doctor because his wrists were swollen,” read the RSF statement. “The doctor sprayed his wrists and gave him a painkiller. He was then allowed to speak to two lawyers and described to them the circumstances of his arrest.”

“I talked to seven people who were arrested similarly for taking photographs. However all were accused of obstructing police duty, disobeying orders and causing loss of public order,” Naish stated.

At around 2:00am he was moved to a large cell where 25 other people were already being held. He was finally released without charge the next afternoon, after being held for about 24 hours, RSF stated.

“I found out later than government-aligned private broadcaster Villa Television showed footage of my arrest, which would have confirmed that the police lied about the place of arrest. It would also show that I was not jeopardising public order,” Naish told the NGO.

Naish added that journalist Ali Nahyk with Minivan Radio 97FM – a station unaffiliated with the Minivan New online website – was arrested on 31 August for similar reasons.

“Maldives is ranked 73rd out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, which was compiled before February’s turmoil, when President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign and Vice-President Mohammed Waheed took over. The media situation has worsened dramatically since then,” RSF observed.

“RSF reminds the authorities that arbitrary arrest violates article 46 of the Maldivian constitution, which says: ‘Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained, arrested or imprisoned except as provided by law by the People’s Majlis [parliament] in accordance with the article 16 of this constitution’.”

The organisation noted that media and netizens had “played an important role during the Nasheed administration’s ouster in February, photographing and filming aspects of the accompanying crackdown that embarrassed authorities.”

Bystander arrested for recording an arrest:


7 thoughts on “Reporters Without Borders condemns arbitrary arrest of journalists for taking photos”

  1. You cannot teach an old dictator new tricks, apparently.

    Maldives police service is now the Police force of the olden times - acting with impunity and acting with the specific intention of terrorizing the public (or what their "commissioner" the traitor Abdulla Riyaz calls 'criminals')

    This is just one in a series of recent deplorable actions taken by the coup regime to intimidate the media.

    It is regrettable that the International community has choosen to turn a blind eye to the Waheed regime's impunity and numerous excesses.

    One step forward, ten steps backward for Maldivian democracy.

  2. The really terrifying thing here is that MPS consists of a lot more youngsters fresh out of school now, who have the right and authority to behave in whatever way they like.

  3. It really does seem that powerful forces wish to pound the people of the Maldives back into a state of slavish fear and unquestioning, silent, docile obedience.

    Order was once maintained in the Maldives through FEAR, primarily the Fear of a deity. The experience OF that deity was - I think, the experience of the power of the super-structural institutions converted through the religious imagination and the collective conscioussness of the Dhivehin into a DEITY.

    This order is being sough after again, the deity being projected fiercer than ever. The fiercer the liberals desparation for freedom from mind control becomes, the fiercer religious zealots become in order to counter act the sense of danger, loss of control, or 'anarchy' which is perceived to be tearing the Maldives apart due to 'freedom.'

    Yet, the fiercer the religious become, the fiercer the liberals become.

    I think it is about time the Mullah's, Waheed, and the Islamic think tanks began to consider the idea that the will to social and individual freedom is innate and irrepressible. True social harmony can only be realized through mutual respect of each other's liberty and humanity.

    When ppl speak of the beautiful 'order' which used to exist in the Maldives, and the struggle to regain that order again, they use the term social harmony. It makes it sound as though order was once maintained through this great love that all of the Maldivians had for each other, the people of Male' so loved the people of Addu, the peasents so loved the be'fulhu and the Be'fulhu so loved the peasents!

    This, I have come to think, is false. ORDER was never 'social harmony' in the Maldives, it was simply this... FEAR!

    These days, it seems that MOST Resistance of this 'tyranny in the name of social harmony and order' takes the form of ridicule of, and arguments against, religious belief, for natural reasons.

    No true social harmony can be maintained if it exists through fear, PEACE which is not JUST is not PEACE.

    People living in fear seem all docile and slavish, subservient, but oneday, the need for freedom will become too powerful, and they will become ANGRY!

    This anger used to take the form of Islamic extremism due to the fact that information about liberty, and forums for venting frustration and aspiring for democratic rights did not exist, the only vehicle for expressing, for harnessing the anger created by repressed freedom was, Islamic extremism.

    Religion took the form of both the spirit of the tyrants of the old world, but it also became the natural 'democratic' spirit of the old world. The deity of the people was a projection of the will to power of the people. By Divinising the Will to Power, it elevated that POWER. Clashes of religious perception were in fact one of the form which clashes of social power manifested as, tribal clashes, family clashes, racial clashes, class clashes.

    Many amongst the middle classes from Male' seem to be leaning towards liberal ideas in their struggle for freedom. Many Islanders living in Male' who somehow sense the underlying prejudice toward them from the Male' people, seem to express their will to dignity, freedom, and JUSTICE through Islam. It is often a fire and brimstone Islam. fire and brimstone religious zeal is a fairly common expression of the anger of the oppressed classes, races, all over the world. It has taken on a buddhist face, a Christian face, a Hindu face, an Animist face, and other faces.

    In fronting the world as a technocratic liberal, Waheed is in fact hiding the tyranny which is going on behind the scenes in the Maldives. This will make the Dhivehin people's struggle for freedom seem even more desparate, the sense of frustration, rejection, abandonement, helplessness, powerlessness, betrayal by the world, will make the anger STRONGER. THAT is the danger of the liberal facade, it makes the world think Maldives is so liberal that their freedom fighters are liars, and this will make the explosion more intense when it happens.

    Waheed needs to be honest to the world about the situation on the ground. This preserve the reputation of the Maldives as some peaceful harmonious liberal democracy at all costs attitude will have disastrous consequences oneday, as it is fake. It is a damned well mask which MOST Maldivians have learnt to portray extremely well, the art of face saving, of appearing to be something that your not is an art form developed to perfection by the Dhivehin.

    IF Waheed wants to realize security, social harmony, and an ORDER worth preserving, he has to do it through the continuing on of the MDP's attempts to bring about social justice reforms.

    Taxation of the super-profits of the resort owners and their redistribution as medical treatment, education, employment opportunity of the poorer classes. Empowerement to Islander sovereignty, business so that the islanders could be economically successful in their own Atoll or Island, has to be followed through.

    The realization of social justice and economic autonomy will help create a society which has genuine social harmony, as the religious zeal and the liberal zeal would be less explosive.

  4. By the way, thankyou everyone at MINIVAN, the Maldivian and Western journalists (JJ Robinson, Neil Merrett, Ahmed Nazeer, Zaheena Rasheed, Hawwa Lubna, Mohamed Naahee, Mariyath Mohammed, Bosely and EVERYONE ELSE I have overlooked at minivan, to ALL of you who work at, or for minivannews, THANKYOU SO MUCH. Also, THANKYOU to ALL the commentors!

    By providing a forum for people to speak against Government, social oppression, it encourages others to be less afraid, and, thanks to you guys, you are helping ppl have the courage to bee free, to resist tyranny, to have the guts to speak against oppression, this is a beautiful and powerful Way to help the cause of liberty so fear and oppression never reigns again

    What I mean by this is that, when Maldivians see others having the guts to write the truath, or express dissent, both journo's and commentors, it gives them the courage to express dissent! A Government which has no dissent, or forum for expressing public dissent, becomes tyranny!

    So THANKYOU ALL at minivan news for your work, please, my prayers and love is with ALL of you guys, stay strong stay strong!!! You, ALL you, journo'e, commentors, are doing an important and fantastic, a sacred work, you ALL you at minivan, and commentors, YOU are all legends and fantastic heroes, keep it up!

  5. Reporteurs sans Frontieres must really balance its statement. We are talking about one arrest not a culture of the same.

    As for the Maldivian media, much is needed to bring them into line with best practices which might help their development as well.

    1. First persons serving posts in political parties must be distanced from private media or rather the public should demand that such institutions appear to be balanced.

    I note here that belonging to a political party is not an issue in itself. However claiming to practice independent journalism while actively campaigning within a political party destroys public confidence in the media.

    2. A proper school of journalism or training institute must be established where our young reporters can learn about journalistic ethics and standards. Such training should be provided by one means or another in order to ensure future development of the media.

    3. Editorial policies at media stations should be informed of the legal framework within which they must report. They should be taught what amounts to defamation and what amounts to slander. Also a monitoring body must take swift action against media excesses in this area.

    4. A proper framework should be in place for journalists covering political demonstrations. These often turn violent in the Maldives. In order to ensure the safety, security and proper conduct of journalists we need to come up with requirements for best practice in this area.

    5. Defamation laws must be amended to reflect the changed context. The current ceiling of damages which is set at 5000 MVR is insufficient in cases where broadcast media repeatedly air accusations and sometimes false reports against people and institutions. The law should allow for the aggrieved to demand damages equal to the injury suffered. This will act as a deterrent preventing the media from going overboard with their reporting.

    On this occasion I must note that Minivan and Haveeru are currently the most professionally-run news outlets in the Maldives.

  6. there has not been any increase in journalist arrest in Maldives with the new government. Talk with the facts, and tell me any journalist who have been unduly arrested and punished ?

    During Annie dictatorship , there had been much more threat to the media than today and Anni even had warned and given verbal threat to some media companies ? Being the head of the Government , on what ground he had done that and why no one had highlighted that issue ?

  7. And now Reporters without Borders have woken up after a long sleep lasting three years. Good on them.. Welcome to breakfast.


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