Police arrested two journalists during continued protests by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters in Male’ today. The Maldives Police Service later released the head of news for private TV station Raajje TV Asward Ibrahim Waheed a few hours after his arrest. Ali Naseer, a journalist from Cable News Maldives (CNM), continues to remain in police custody – though is expected to be released soon.
A police official confirmed to Minivan News this evening, that the journalists, who were carrying identification, had been temporarily apprehended for “taking part” in the demonstrations.
The two journalists are among a total of 23 people to have been arrested during protests conducted this week at Republican Square in Male’. The protests, which began yesterday involving a few hundred people, have continued into this evening.
The MDP has held frequent demonstrations calling for early elections alleging President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a coup d’état on February 7.
Speaking to Minivan News, journalist Asward Ibrahim Waheed claimed he was arrested by police while attempting to cover footage of police beating a protester. Video footage of Waheed’s arrest posted on the internet appears to show the journalist running towards a police officer and a man in plain clothes as they hold down and beat a protester on the ground. Several police officers then rush at and surround Waheed.
“They came at me and one police officer grabbed me by the neck. They then twisted by arm around and threw me to the ground,” Waheed told Minivan News.
“They were very verbally abusive. They said we have been waiting to get hold of a Raajje TV journalist, arrest him! I don’t have visible injuries, but my neck and arms hurt,” he said.
Rajje TV regularly broadcasts live footage of MDP protests. The broadcaster’s journalists have previously accused police of physical assault and harassment following the transfer of power. Meanwhile, CEO of Raajje TV Akram Kamaldeen has claimed in local media that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb assaulted him last Thursday (July 5).
Minivan News today observed MDP members heckling police across temporary barricades erected at the Republican Square. Protesters mobbed several police and military officers on motorbikes as they attempted to drive through the crowd gathered at the barricades.
In an official statement, police said all the arrests made related to people breaking through police barricades and obstructing officers from their duty.
Police also alleged that protesters damaged the Auditor General’s car at 9:00am.
“We will take necessary action if the MDP continues to shout and disturb the peace after 12:00 am tonight,” police said.
In addition to the 23 people detained today during the protests, police yesterday arrested 18 individuals.
The MDP has subsequently released a statement condemning the arrests claiming police were arresting peaceful protesters and impeding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
“We call for the immediate release of all those arrested against the law,” the statement said.
The protest was continuing at time of press.