The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned Maldives police for summoning two journalists from the Haveeru newspaper for questioning after they wrote an article about an alleged Facebook blackmail ring thought to involve a number of high profile politicians.
Police have since denied allegations from some press and media organisations that the questioning was politically motivated, claiming they had sought to request assistance with the ongoing investigation into the reported crime.
However, the IFJ has said it was critical of the manner that police sought to question two journalists over their story.
”Ahmed Hamdhoon and Ismail Naseer, who researched and wrote the story in the Dhivehi-language edition of Haveeru, were summoned by police in the capital Male’ and asked about the sources they had used to detail the content of the allegedly pornographic videos,” said the IFJ in a statement. ”The story published on 22 February had reported that the pornographic material was being circulated in a blackmail operation that had entrapped several well-known figures.”
“We are encouraged to learn that the two journalists turned down the police demand to name sources,” the IFJ website quoted is Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park as saying. ”The Republic of the Maldives sent out a strong positive signal by including the protection of media sources in its basic law and it is important to see that this significant legal provision is strengthened, not weakened, in practice.”
“Anonymity of sources is a necessary protection for journalists seeking to bring evidence of wrongdoing into the public domain. It is well understood that anonymity cannot be used as a cover for putting out wrong or malicious information, or for the protection of anybody involved in any felony,” added Park.
On 22 February, Police announced that they had arrested 14 persons including a minor for alleged involvement in blackmailing people after acquiring nude pictures and videos of them through Facebook.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News this week that in light of the ongoing serious cyber crimes investigation into the Facebook case, 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.
The conduct of police in requesting information about the sources used in the Haveeru article has been criticised by both the paper’s own editor and the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) – an affiliate of the IFJ.