The Indian High Commission has issued a statement slamming local media in the Maldives for “misrepresentation and twisting of issues”.
“The High Commission has noted a recent trend in a section of local media to publish negative, unsubstantiated reports, while blacking out objective and positive news on Indian issues,” the Commission said.
“These reports have the potential to create negative public sentiment and reflect a non-serious approach by the media concerned while dealing with sensitive issues,” the statement added.
The statement highlighted several recent examples, such as coverage of the Maldivian national Ahmed Ruffan Ali, who was reported as alleging he had been “tortured” in an Indian jail after being detained for illegally smuggling peacock feathers.
“The High Commission facilitated major help and assistance for the release of the youth while in distress in India,” the statement read.
“While prominently covering the unsubstantiated and motivated statement of the sentenced youth, the media concerned did not verify the facts from the High Commission and chose to overlook the statement of the youth. His subsequent rejoinder that he was not ‘tortured’ in India has not been carried by the media, so far.”
In a rejoinder statement forwarded by the High Commission, Rufwaan expresses “deep regret” that in an article on Sun Online, “using the word ‘tortured’ is a misrepresentation made in translation of the original statement I made on January 26, speaking to the media at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), upon arrival from India.”
Rufwaan said he had been asked by reporters as to whether he was beaten in custody, to which he “regretfully responded, “It is a jail after all, and we will get beaten. Yes I was beaten. The rules of the officers there is that, once jailed we have to beg for mercy at their feet. I refused to do that, which is why I got the beating.”
However, Rufwaan stated, “Using the word ‘torture’ insinuates that I was exposed to extreme violent treatment which was not the case. It is also the ‘cultural’ language barrier that the Dhivehi language consists of limited vocabulary which when translated to English, can fit to a variety of synonyms.
“Also, the lack of literary expertise in linguistics of the journalists can often provide misleading information and I believe this could have caused this mistake. The concerned media has taken it very lightly and when requested to correct it, responded as ‘I’ll give it a thought’,” he added.
“Hence I kindly apologise to all concerned authorities for the unfortunate choice of word used in the article, which in my understanding, creates a far more negative and graphic image of how I intended to express,” he said, expressing “profound appreciation” for the High Commission’s “constant support and assistance” throughout his detention.
Editor of Sun and head of the Maldives Journalists Association, Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, told Minivan News that the specific word Rufwaan had used, “aniyaa”, translated to “torture”, according to Sun’s audio recordings.
“We [later] received a call, not from him, but from somebody on his behalf,” said Hiriga, acknowledging that media had a responsibility to issue a clarification or correction if this was later required. “We will be making the correction. We do not want to create any problems.”
In a second example, the High Commission highlighted a report in a daily newspaper titled “India to stop export of sand, rice to Maldives”.
“The report is grossly unsubstantiated and does not provide any credible source of its information. As far as the High Commission is aware, the government of India has taken no such decision to ban export of rice or river sand to Maldives. There is a local court injunction for the export of river sand from Tuticorin, though the importers are free to source it from any other region/state in India,” the Indian High Commission stated.
Sun Online carried a story today that the State Trading Organisation (STO) had decided to import aggregate from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka “following a temporary suspension of export of aggregate from India.”
“The Maldives has been importing aggregate from India under a special quota extended by the Indian government. The Indian Ministry of Commerce has notified Indian suppliers that the aggregate quota has been temporarily suspended from the 15th of January onwards,” Sun reported.