Haveeru editor questions motivation of police press probe

Police questioning of two journalists over sources said to have seen indecent images used in the alleged bribery of high profile legal and political figures has raised suspicions that the conduct of law enforcement towards the media may be politically motivated, the editor of Haveeru has claimed.

Amidst ongoing investigations into a blackmail ring that allegedly used fake profiles of a young blonde woman on the Facebook website to obtain indecent and graphic images of a large swathe of Maldivian society, police last week obtained a court order to search the computers of some Haveeru staff.

Police officials said they ultimately opted not to conduct a search on Haveeru’s premises, but that the questioning of the journalists involved was important to an ongoing investigations into the suspected blackmail ring that has already seen a number of suspects arrested, including minors.

However, the questioning has been condemned by media groups such as the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) as a step to suppress rights to a free media outlined under Article 28 of the constitution passed in 2008.

Haveeru Journalists Ahmed Hamdhoon and Ismail Naseer volunteered to take part in police questioning about an article published by Haveeru on February 22 concerning the content of images acquired through Facebook. The paper maintains it does not have any of the files in question.

Haveeru Editor Moosa Latheef told Minivan News that although police had acted politely and without aggression in requesting the identity of the sources said to have viewed the indecent images – a request he said was denied just as politely – the case could have serious ramifications for the national media in the future. Latheef stressed particular concern that should police repeat their conduct of looking to question journalists about their sources or stories.

“We are very much enjoying the press freedom in the Maldives right now. But I’m afraid that if the police or other institutions try to interfere with our [press] freedom then they will create an atmosphere where we are unable to fulfil our responsibilities,” he said. “If this repeats then we could have journalists who are afraid to write about issues. No one wants to go to the courts to defend himself or herself [over stories].”

Latheef said that in general, it could become very easy to begin such a case by accusing a journalist – or anyone – of having illegal content such as pornographic images on their computer. Yet on a wider level, the editor was wary about police being able to gain access to the computer files of the country’s journalists and their contents that could include confidential sources vital to break stories.

While the paper’s editor accepted that there were situations such as national security issues that could warrant a court to request the identity of a journalist’s source against commonly held industry ethics, he claimed such requests should remain very rare cases.

Latheef said that the Facebook bribery allegations were a story not about an issue of national security, but one concerning prominent members of the government, parliament and the judiciary, which paled in consequence to some of the stories he said Haveeru has previously published.

“Why are the police coming after us? We have written much more serious things about national issues like about corruption in the government, the opposition and the judiciary. This is not so serious news,” he said. “It will not damage any group as much as individual politicians, so if they have done something against their ethics, they can resign. They can submit their resignation to the president, or to the concerned parties or the judiciary. It is not like the national issues we have seen last August during the constitutional crisis.”

Latheef claimed that although he was not happy with the current government and opposition, he added that there had not been any interference with Haveeru’s output from either side of the national political spectrum in recent years.

“They didn’t interfere in anything like this. This why I’m considering why this time are police trying to get these sources? I suspect that the in some way perhaps the president or even an opposition leader may have tried to save someone close to them,” he said. “I am not sure, but maybe, the political influence may be behind this police action. Otherwise I don’t think police would take this kind of thing very seriously.”

Haveeru’s editor added that his suspicions were also raised by the nature of the police submissions to the Criminal Court for a warrant to investigate the paper’s office, which he said mentioned only that the investigation included members of the judiciary as opposed to other branches of state like parliament and the government.

“They did not mention the actual writing of our news report. We included that government officials, those in executive power, citizens and members of the judiciary may also be involved in these videos.  They mentioned in their submission to the court of only the judiciary [being included in the article].”

The editor claimed that he believed the submission was made to specifically ensure a court order against the paper’s staff, conduct which he derided in a Haveeru press release that was published yesterday.

Latheef claimed that no one at Haveeru had any of the alleged indecent images or to his knowledge seen the content; with reports by Hamdhoon and Naseer based on the accounts of “trusted” sources that included political insiders. However, he said it was accepted that police were also required to do their duty.

“They [police] suspected Haveeru had the porn [images and video files alleged to have been collected through the false Facebook sites] that they are investigating. That would be a criminal offense so it is police duty to investigate these kind of things,” added Latheef.

The Maldives Police Service has denied any allegations that its decision to seek a warrant from the country’s criminal court to search the computers of two Haveeru journalists – which was not carried out in the end – was a politically-driven attack on press freedom.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that in light of the ongoing serious cyber crimes investigation into the Facebook profiles, attempts were made to to obtain further information from the sources used in Haveeru’s article.

“For that we needed more cooperation from Haveeru so we sought a court order to go ahead with this,” he said.

Shiyam claimed that the questioning was not therefore a ‘political attack’ on media freedom but a means to see what help the people mentioned in the article would be to the police investigation.


11 thoughts on “Haveeru editor questions motivation of police press probe”

  1. funny when MJA cries press freedom.hirigaa and hvaeeru represent everything thats wrong with this nations journalism . hiriga led the dictators propaganda news in haveeru and helped to ruthlessly deny press freedom to others. fuuny how soon we maldivians forget things.MJA is a sham to all hard working journalists around the world.

  2. Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam is uttering a complete fabrication. The Police doesn not need "cooperation" from a newspaper to get to the bottom of this story when they claim to have confiscated far more relevant material from the suspected criminals themselves.

    It's quite clear that there are some high profile individuals involved and "orders" are coming from high above to somehow "protect" them. Indeed, this is a serious obstruction to the freedom of press that President Nasheed claims to allow.

    The newspaper shouldn't be under any obligation to share their information with the Police, since this is a matter of deep public interest. If the Courts do order the newspaper to divulge information, then that will surely be due to undue political influence.

  3. The Police are being ordered to cover up some of the individuals involved. Therefore, they need to check, exactly how much information does the newspaper have.

    Therefore, the Police are trying to check whether Haveeru have information regarding some of the individuals. The Police knows that they cannot "hide" these people, if Haveeru already has evidence against them.

    The Police are definitely being directed from the High Command of the country.

  4. This issue isn't really about just press freedom, but also about the integrity of the whole system. The question here is since the respective Court issued a court order to search the Haveeru premises, it should be because the Court was presented with relevant information to warrant such a search. Be it the Press, or a Minister or a MP, their individual or collective rights cannot be more important than the collective rights of the larger public. What guarantee is there that a member of the press, a minister or an MP won't be involved in any criminal activities? So if the court order is valid, the POlice should be allowed to do their job. But if the validity of the court order is in question, then we are questioning the integrity of the whole system and one has to wonder why the media with its esteemed Press Freedom, hasn't had the guts to be consistent and persistent in using the power of Press Freedom to question the whole system? Why not look at the Government, the MPs and the so called independent Judiciary as a whole, instead of focusing on each group in an ad hoc manner when some issue arises?! Unfortunately the media doesn't yet seem to realize that Press Freedom also entails more responsibility in reporting, and that reporting and news reporting are not the same. Instead, what we are seeing is a lot of slander and personal attacks on people without providing any concrete proof for any allegations made. Its one thing to use "trusted source" when initially reporting an incident, but if that allegation doesn't follow with concrete proof for the allegation made, then it is highly irresponsible reporting. It seems that "Press Freedom" is just a handy word for the media to hide behind.

  5. here is a thought... these guys becomes victims themselves, senselessly giving MSN ID and masturbates themselves when the webcam is on and Police is trying to investigate this... WHY?

  6. Haveeru did not have the evidence. They had based their story on hearsay. Meaning instruction. And now they are talking about the sources. The source being who told them what for them to report this hearsay. Or instruction. All journalists in MJA are in the pay of someone defeated (humiliated) by the MDP. Together they are applying collective untruths to tarnish the people that defeated them. Like: "Atoll Offices reverted to Thulusdhoo and Funadhoo" !! Nothing of the sort. Their past masters had simply brought out supporters to claim so. Nothing official, no evidence, just hearsay, instruction. @#$%##@@##!!

  7. The fact is the top people in this country take this incident as a personal thing. We are 100% muslims and these things should not happen. The top officials of this country shud be good examples to the youth and young children of this country.

  8. How do we know Haveeru journalists are telling the truth or do they even have seen such a video. An anti-government news paper can write any thing and spread big lies. The only way we could know is by investigating it. I know these journalists very well and their morality is not in par with developed media standards.

  9. When some people seek to blackmail the country's parliamentarians, top government officials, prominent politicians, etc., it is, in my opinion, an issue concerning national security. If these figures have broken any law, that's a different issue which the police have to handle.Press freedom is essential, but that should not make the journalists "untouchable". They should take responsibility for what they publish, and should not base their stories on hearsay. Let the police do their job. If the journalists involved are not breaking any law, then i do not see why they have to be so concerned.

  10. All comments above does not reflect the possibility that this whole fiasco might stem from within the MDP itself.

    The media and the police have continued to make attempts to fit their actions within the relevant legal frameworks. Their intentions however is a matter of perspective and might be construed by different people differently.

    The fact of the matter is that the uproar and overreaction from all sectors of society warrants some inquisition into the credibility of the media claims. Something certainly has happened and someone surely has been affected - that much is for certain 😛


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