Editor of Vnews Adam Haleem has received a death threat following heated confrontations during a meeting of the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA).
“If you keep behaving however you like, we will make you disappear, we will behead you. Keep that in mind [expletive],” read the anonymous text message, received yesterday at 11:51pm.
The threat was received just minutes after the conclusion of an MJA meeting, in which local media outlet Vaguthu is claiming its Chief Editor Musharraf Hassan had been the victim of an attempted assault by Haleem.
The message received by Haleem comes just days after all media outlets gathered to call for an end to the culture of intimidation, after the recent abduction of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.
Following last night’s disrupted meeting, MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir announced his resignation, citing the atmosphere as “not conducive” to hold the association’s scheduled elections.
Haleem, whose award-winning journalism career has also included stints at Sun Online and Haveeru, has rejected claims of an assault, as has the MJA which released a statement denying the incident occurred.
No other journalists present at the meeting have reported the attempted assault, said by Vaguthu to have involved a chair being aimed unsuccessfully at their editor. The paper has also alleged that both the MJA and Haveeru had defamed the paper in the subsequent reporting of events.
Haleem noted that the threatening text was received 15 minutes after the meeting ended, with Vaguthu soon reporting the assault having taken place.
He also noted that he had received messages last night which appeared to have come from Vnews owner and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, calling upon him to resign.
“Gasim called me after I received texts in his name and said he had not sent them. So we have to find out where these messages came from,” said Haleem.
Gasim himself was the subject of death threats last week, with the resort owner alleging opposition MPs to have been behind the text threats sent to the Jumhooree Party leader.
In a letter sent to Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed, Gasim suggested the threats had been sent using number duplicating software which gave the appearance of having been sent from a different individual.
The media’s growing concern over a number of attacks on staff and property prompted a landmark joint statement from all the country’s media outlets, signed on Saturday (August 23), expressing “grave concern” over the disappearance of Rilwan 17 days ago.
“We will not step back, or put down our pens, or silence our tongues, or hold our thoughts in the face of such threats. We will do whatever is necessary to secure our right,” it read.
“Efforts have always been made by various parties to silence journalists. Many journalists have been assaulted,” said the document, representing 12 different organisations.
As the police’s investigations into Rilwan’s disappearance continues, Police Commissioner Waheed met with senior officials from telecoms company Ooredoo regarding anonymous text threats.
As the threatening texts were “the issue that public has expressed concern with the most,” discussions focused on ways to speedily resolve the issue, explained a police press release.
Discussions were said to focus on “establishing a mechanism for identifying those who are sending messages to incite fear among citizens faster than at present and putting a stop to it.”
Around 15 journalists from across the media community received SMS threats in relation to their outlets’ coverage of gang-related violence earlier this month, while more threats were reported last week, making specific reference to Rilwan’s disappearance.
A text message sent to Minivan 97 journalist Aishath Aniya on August 20, from a sender identified as ‘ISIS’, read as follows:
“You are next on our hit list. Be careful when you walk alone. #fuckmoyameehaa.”