Al Jazeera reports on tourism, fishing, and crime in the “real Maldives”

Al Jazeera’s Nidhi Dutt travelled to the Maldives to talk to resort managers and worker in the fishing industry as well as victims of crime in what is described as the “real maldives”.

“A lot is going on here that people never know. Everything is shut off to the outside world,” said Fahma Zadha, whose husband was murdered on the streets of Male’ last year.

“We want to give the message to the outsiders that this place is not safe anymore, we can walk like we could ten years back.”

Al Jazeera reported that the next president would need to overcome both social and economic problems in order to keep both tourists and locals happy.


The Maldives: Mired in presidential intrigue

“In the end, whether it was a coup or not is academic. The chance to reverse the situation is long gone. Waheed’s government is established,” writes Will Jordan for Al Jazeera.

“But there are two other questions. Was there a conspiracy to cripple Nasheed’s government? And did Gayoom have a hand in bringing Nasheed down?

The evidence is circumstantial.

It centres on what the Danish experts describe as ‘a highly unorthodox meeting’ at the end of January between then Deputy President Waheed and the opposition leaders. Afterwards, opposition figures pledged their allegiance to Waheed.

Two key players in Nasheed’s downfall have also received senior posts. Mohamed Nazim is Defence Minister. Abdulla Riyaz is Minister for State and Home Affairs. They both watched as Nasheed signed his resignation.

Waheed was also fast to reshuffle his government, promoting Gayoom’s son and daughter to the foreign and fisheries ministries respectively.”

Read more.


Q&A: Al Jazeera interviews President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan

Al Jazeera’s 101 East program has conducted an in-depth interview with new President of the Maldives, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan. The original interview can be seen on Al Jazeera’s website. The transcript below was provided by Al Jazeera.

Fauziah Ibrahim: Let’s start with the events on Feb 7 when President Nasheed resigned. He says that it was under duress. Was it a coup?

Dr Mohamed Waheed: It wasn’t a coup. It’s been portrayed in the Western media as a coup d’etat. But the president resigned voluntarily. We have pictures of him having a Cabinet meeting following which he writes his own letter of resignation. And in front of the television camera, he announced he was resigning with his Cabinet standing behind him. He could have indicated even indirectly even if he was under duress. He didn’t. It took 24 hours before he changed his mind. I am convinced that he resigned voluntarily.

FI: Doesn’t it disturb you though that your presidency is being challenged and being undermined by these accusations?

DMW: Of course these are unfair accusations. We were totally unprepared, it took us by surprise. And therefore, we could not get our message across to the rest of the world, to tell them about our understanding, to tell what actually happened. He had the machinery already in place because all these people were appointed by him from his party only. And therefore all shifted with him to his house and began the media campaign to show to the rest of the world it was a coup d’etat. It wasn’t a coup d’etat, if you think it was do you think he would be out here talking to you and everybody else? You know there’s no restriction on his freedom and he is moving around. We have a democracy and we are respecting it. We welcome an independent investigation to find out exactly what happened. We will not be in the way of finding out the truth.

FI: We have seen footage of security forces out on the streets; we have seen people demanding for the resignation of the then president Nasheed. Mainly these people have been the security officers. That’s what we are seeing from the video. Also, we have video footage of your current defense minister entering the barracks and then coming out of the barracks demanding the President’s resignation. We see him also in the President’s office just before and just after the resignation. Now, at that point he was just a civilian. Why was a civilian given so much privilege access?

DMW: I have no idea because I was not part of what happened that day.

FI: Did you know this was going to happen?

DMW: No, absolutely not.

FI: But you met with opposition parties before this happened.

DMW: The opposition call for his resignation has been going on for a very long time. For almost three weeks we had serial demonstrations every night in Male, calling for the President’s resignation for various reasons. And when this thing happened, nobody expected this to happen. My understanding of the issue was that the president was issuing unlawful orders to the security forces and at some point, they decided that enough was enough and they were not going to listen to him. And that’s when he decides that he was going to submit his resignation. But he changed his mind afterwards.

FI: Why do you think he changed his mind? Why do you think he is now saying it was a coup?

DMW: I think he just lost it. He lost it and realised what a blunder he had made. Maybe this was a trick he was playing on the people; I don’t know. But he resigned voluntarily and in front of the camera. He could have said under the circumstances, I am being forced to resign, but he didn’t. He didn’t give any indication, any clue. He could have called me and said “Waheed, I am being forced to resign.”

FI: What would you have done?

DMW: I would not have taken the oath of office if he had said that. He should have called me, he didn’t. He called some of the ambassadors in this country asking for help, he called some of his party members, and he called the rest of the Cabinet in his office but he didn’t talk to me.

FI: Why do you think he didn’t call you, is because he didn’t trust you?

DMW: We haven’t been talking for a while except in the….

FI: Is it because he thought you were not part of his plans in the Maldives?

DMW: We all fought for democracy in the country. It was not a reversal. I was part of the democracy movement as well.

FI: It does seem like a reversal though now that you have appointed this particular civilian, a retired colonel as the defense minister, you have appointed Mohamed Jameel Ahmed Home Minister both of whom are known as supporters of ex-President Gayoom. You have also appointed Dunya Maumoon who is Gayoom’s daughter as the state minister of foreign affairs. Are we about to see Maldives slide back into dictatorship here?

DMW: I have also appointed to the Cabinet people from seven other parties. I am trying to form a national unity government. I want everyone to participate.

FI: But everyone is looking at the security forces and they are saying the people who head this security forces are Gayoom’s supporters.

DMW: That is not true. The Home Minister is not from Gayoom’s party. In fact, the current Home Minister was in Nasheed’s government. President Nasheed came to power in a coalition. He was unable to win by himself. We brought in other parties and we won the election. But soon after the elections, he decided to go back on his words. And get everybody out of the government. The Home minister was one of them and what we saw progressively after that was a gradual reversal of democracy. The head of state began doing things that were unconstitutional like locking up the supreme court, arbitrarily arresting political leaders and detaining them without charge, and finally we have this very bizarre situation where the president orders the military to arrest a serving judge.

FI: During these events, you served as vice-president. Did you object to his actions?

DMW: Yes, I objected and advised the president that it was not the way to go about it.

FI: Did he take your advice?

DMW: He does not take anyone’s advice. He is not somebody who takes people’s advice.

FI: Why didn’t you as vice-president then resign?

DMW: I spoke out; I said this is not the way to do things. I don’t particularly like these people or the judge, I don’t know him. This is not the way to go about it. There are constitutional ways where these things have to be done.

FI: Do you trust the judiciary in the Maldives?

DMW: I trust the judiciary but it has its problems.

FI: What sort of problems?

DMW: There are problems in the sense that it has to be strengthened like in the use of modern evidence; I would like to see that the judiciary becomes more independent; that they have more resources.

FI: It has been said that the judiciary in the Maldives cannot be trusted and it is corrupt and basically supports the Gayoom regime?

DMW: No, no, no. This is not rue. The Supreme Court was appointed by the president himself. He was the one who nominated the Supreme Court judges.

FI: When you took office, several high profile officials overseas resigned. Among them are the Maldivian ambassador to the UN who went live on Aljazeera, the High Commissioner to the UK also resigned, the Deputy High Commissioner who happens to be your own brother also resigned. He said he did not know why you were favouring Gayoom. He warned you not to join the people of the autocratic ruler Gayoom. How do you feel when you are being connected to the former dictatorial regime?

DMW: The High Commissioner and the deputy high commissioner who happens to be my brother were all appointed by Nasheed. Their loyalty is clearly with the former president. Most of the educated people in this country were educated in the last 30 to 35 years. And out of that, former President Gayoom ruled this country for about 30 years. So it is very difficult to find people here who have not served with President Gayoom or who have not been with this government. If you look at the closest people to former President Nasheed you will find that there were a lot of people with him were also with former President Gayoom and his government. So it is an unfair accusation that I am taking particularly side with Gayoom. That’s not true; of course I want all political parties to be involved in a political process. Therefore, it is also proper that we must bring people from his party in.

FI: Do you not think that the specter of Gayoom looms large over Maldives and this is why you have this political turmoil now?

DMW: Not entirely. Of course Gayoom is a factor because he got 40 percent of the votes in the last election. You know, he still has some support. The man has got to be given a little bit of respect.

FI: Do you want him to be here?

DMW: If he wants to that is his right. But there are other political leaders in the country now. There are other political parties here now. They all want to be part of the political process, not to be alienated. We need to have an inclusive process in which more political parties must be involved. We simply cannot swipe all the other parties off. This is the problem.

FI: It’s certainly very honorable that you want a unity government, that you want all the parties together in order to progress the Maldivian democracy. However it’s also been said there are larger powers than you who are the machinations behind what is happening in the Maldives. You are merely a puppet. Now what do you say to that.

DMW: No, this is not true. Because I have said, I have my terms on my coalition partners who are now coming into the government. What I am saying is that you guys nominate the people and I will put them into the Cabinet. It’s my choice where I put these people. And I also don’t want them to talk to me about the vice-president’s post because that has to be somebody who I choose and somebody who I think is not involved in politics and so on. I believe that is very important this time to build confidence in the government, in the political process. The best I can do at the moment is to facilitate the process that brings people together and create some healing. There are some deep rifts in politics in the Maldives at the moment and the way to go forward is not violence, or not coming out on to the streets. The only violence that has happened here is because of former President Nasheed. There is no other violence here.

FI: Much of the current political turmoil started in September last year (2011) when the Islamist group Adhaalath left Nasheed’s coalition saying that he was not doing enough to strengthen Islam in the Maldives. Do you think Islam needs to be strengthened in this country?

DMW: This is a Muslim country. Of course there will be some political parties that will promote Islamic values. This is also true in other countries. Even in Western countries there are political parties which espouse religious values. So as a Muslim country, you shouldn’t be surprised that there are one or two parties that will talk about this. You must understand in the Islamic world there is a whole range of views on what an Islamic society should look like. And in this country and in my Cabinet, we have a range of views. Most of the people in this country are educated. We have a 96 percent literacy rate and most of our young people have gone abroad and studied in Western universities. We have emulated liberal democratic values in our country.

FI: And yet there is a rising growing Islamic fundamentalist movement in this country as well. Do you think Shariah law will work in the Maldives as some are calling for?

DMW: You see, even now our legal system is based on the Shariah and the civil law.

FI: Do you think full shariah law should be or can be implemented in the country?

DMW: Well, it is for our parliament to decide. That’s what a democracy is all about.

FI: I put it to you that perhaps democracy does not work in the Maldives. We have seen Gayoom’s dictatorship end after 30 years. Then we have seen Nasheed come in and try o implement democracy. You are alleging that he was dictatorial in some of his ways. Perhaps democracy does not work in the Maldives because this is a country that bases itself on personalities rather than policies. Is this right?

DMW: This is what we are trying to change. We started a journey of a democracy and we want this to be on the path. These are some of the challenges that we face. But we are increasingly moving towards a society where first of all we uphold our constitution, we respect the rule of law and then we don’t have people who practice dictatorial methods. We have independent institutions, we have the human rights commission, the anti-corruption commission and an independent auditor general and so on. They have to be empowered to make sure there are enough checks and balances so that people don’t go in on autocratic directions.

This is a struggle, and this struggle did not start only in 2008. It started a long time ago and we all have suffered in the process and therefore we have a stake in succeeding in democracy. And democracy will continue, there is no doubt about it. I have no doubt that democracy is for all of us. It is not only a Western concept. We have grown up with these values and we want to live with these values. We want to live ion a democratic free society and I think it can be done in Maldives. But people have to give in a little bit, you every time you don’t like something that happens you can’t go out on the streets and start pledging and burning places. This is a more advanced country; we have more educated people here. It’s a peaceful place and we cannot give this kind of shock to the people in this country. It’s not fair.

FI: Mr President, thank you for speaking with us.

DMW: Thank you.


India’s Foreign Secretary to visit Maldives

India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai is due to fly to the Maldives to resolve escalating political tension in the country.

The Maldives’ former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem welcomed the arrival of Mathi, describing him to the Wall street Journal as a “highly experienced diplomat”.

“It’s very unfortunate that India took a stance on the legitimacy of the government at such an early stage,” said Naseem told the WSJ.

India’s Special Envoy M Ganapathi also visited the Maldives last week, along with many other foreign diplomats seeking to resolve the situation.


“You are my brother and I will always love you”: Dr Waheed’s brother resigns from UK post, calls for President to follow

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s brother, the Deputy High Commissioner of the Maldives to the UK, has announced his resignation and called for his brother to follow suit.

“I have resigned from my post of Deputy High Commissioner as of now. I have resigned because I cannot serve a regime that has brought down the democratically elected government of my country in a coup d’état,” said Naushad Waheed Hassan to media assembled on the steps of the High Commission in London.

“Some of you may question why I have not resigned before. When the coup was unfolding in the early hours of February 7, my initial reaction was to resign immediately. However, as you all know, the leader of the current regime, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, is my own brother. So I decided to take time to make my own enquiries before I came to a conclusion. And it is with a heavy heart that I have to say that this is indeed an illegitimate government and I cannot be party to it.”

Minivan News spoke to Naushad this evening, seeking to confirm the report.

“This is not something I have discussed with my brother,” Naushad told Minivan News. “This is my own personal decision. I stood by him. But I after I saw the videos of the torturing, the police brutality, and saw what happened in the atolls, I decided it was not good for me to stay [in the government].”

Naushad said he did not know why his brother had taken the actions that he had.

“From our childhood days, I know he is a nice person. I still believe this. I don’t know why he is favouring Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]. At this moment I don’t have the details. But I will find out why he took this step. He is someone who has been loved by people for so many years,” he said.

“And I say this to my brother – you are my brother and I will always love you. Do not rob our people of our right to choose our government. Do not be party to this police brutality that is ongoing in the country. Do not join with the people of the autocratic ruler (former) President Gayoom. Do the right thing – resign and hold fresh elections. Let the people of the Maldives decide.”

A staff member in the High Commission described Naushad as “quietly spoken and very friendly. His artwork was up in the commission until this morning so we should have seen it coming. I always noticed that he was happy to talk about his past incarceration [under Gayoom], but he never came across as too bitter.”

The staff member noted that the atmosphere in the High Commission had been a “little terse”, with “differences of opinion between staff that have stronger political, MDP affiliations than others, who see their role in a more purely diplomatic, apolitical sense.”

Maldives Ambassador to UN resigns live on Al Jazeera

Maldives Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, has meanwhile resigned live on Al Jazeera, reading a statement in which he said he was unable to continue his duties due to “certain moral and ethical concerns I had that surrounded the departure of the former President [Nasheed].”

“I listened with much sadness and great pride to the resignation of [President Nasheed] and his decision to step down in the greater interest of the Maldives, bringing to a premature end the maiden term of the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives,” said Ghafoor, one of the Maldives top career diplomats who has also served as defacto non-resident Ambassador to the US.

“The Maldives had yet again shown the world it was able to handle peaceful transfers of power smoothly. I was proud of my President and my country. However the subsequent allegations by the former president – that he was forced to resign – have cast a shadow of doubt on events preceding his announcement,” he stated.

Ghafoor said he accepted Dr Waheed’s government as a legal and legitimate constitutional authority, but said he found himself “in a position that makes it difficult to execute my responsibilities without equivocation based on certain moral and ethical concerns I had that surrounded the departure of the former president.”

“I believe the new president should have the opportunity to have his views and policies served by representatives without reservations or equivocation,” Ghafoor said. “I have therefore conveyed my intention to step down from all my diplomatic postings so that the new president may be better served.”

Ghafoor said that Dr Waheed had accepted his resignation, and had agreed to stay on until a replacement arrived.

“He has also given me leave to speak my conscience in the meantime, and I thank him for that,” Ghafoor said.

Asked by Al Jazeera as to the nature of his “moral and ethical concerns”, Ghafoor reiterated that he had “no reservations about the legitimacy of the current administration.”

“But what has made my conscience troubled is the allegations made by the former President and subsequent events. One concern was the appointment of the current defense minister and police commissioner , who I believe were involved in the negotiations [surrounding Nasheed’s resignation]. This was a troubling event for me.”

Maldives High Commissioner to the UK resigns

Maldives High Commissioner to the UK Dr Farahanaz Faizal also announced her resignation earlier this week.

“They robbed the people of the vote and when I saw the brutality of the police last week, that was the final straw,” she said.

In a letter to the Foreign Minister, Dr Faizal resigned as High Commissioner of the Maldives to the UK and as Ambassador of the Maldives to France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Palestine.

“I regret to let you know that I cannot serve in a government that has toppled the
democratically elected government of Maldives, in a coup d’etat,” she said.

Honorary Consul to the Maldives, David Hardingham, also announced his resignation.

Minivan News sought to contact both Dr Waheed but he had not responded at time of press. Dr Waheed’s acting spokesperson Musood Imad said the President would be holding a press conference on Thursday at 4:30pm.


Gaza flotilla begins controversial journey despite sabotage allegations and UN concerns

A flotilla of ships hoping to breach an Israeli naval blockade to deliver cargo they claim contains vital aid and support for Palestinian territories has begun its journey from the Mediterranean Sea this week.

The commencement of the flotilla’s journey comes just over a year after several members of a similar fleet of vessels were killed and injured after clashes with Israel’s military last year.

The Al Jazeera news agency reported yesterday that despite Israeli claims that latest the ten vessel “Freedom Flotilla II” was a “dangerous provocation” by organisers that would be intercepted accordingly, ships were now making their journey to the city of Gaza amidst alleged attempts to apparently sabotage individual vessels such as the Swedish ship Juliano in Greek waters.

Israel’s attempts to block the flotilla, which military officials have told media reflects fears that the ships could be used to smuggle weapons into Palestine, has proved to be increasingly controversial topic in international diplomacy.

While Israel was condemned by numerous states over its suppression of a similar fleet in 2010, the UN has called on flotilla organisers to cancel their plans, requesting for a focus instead on using legitimate channels to supply aid to the country. The organisation has additionally called for more direct action from Israel to cut restrictions it has imposed on Gaza.

The Maldives was amongst the nations that were openly critical of the Israeli military response last year to the original “Freedom Flotilla” that reportedly led to nine people being killed aboard the MV Mavi Marmara vessel during an assault in international waters. An estimated 60 activists and 10 Israeli soldiers were also injured in the scuffles that the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned “in the strongest possible terms”.

Israeli fears

Reporting today for the Washington Post, Joel Greenberg wrote that Israeli officials were believed to have stepped up the intensity of their attempts to discredit the organisers of the latest flotilla with claims that the ships’ crews were openly waiting to attack any troops working to intercept their vessels.

“On Tuesday, Israeli newspapers were filled with reports from unnamed military officials, charging that sacks of chemicals, including sulfur, had been loaded onto flotilla vessels with the aim of using the materials against Israeli soldiers,” Greenberg wrote in the paper.

The report claimed that some sections of local media were using headlines such as “Coming to Kill” alongside pictures of some of the vessels in the Flotilla in their coverage.

To counteract these fears, military officials have pledged to prevent the flotilla’s vessels from reaching Gaza and not ruled out the use of unspecified “force” in their aims.

Certain high profile figures believed to be aboard the flotilla have continued to stress that they are planning the trip as a non-violent protest against foreign policy pursued by Israeli forces.  Last week, the UK-based Guardian newspaper published an interview with American writer Alice Walker, who claimed that she would be taking part in the flotilla as a passenger on the vessel, the Audacity of Hope, to deliver letters of goodwill to the people of Gaza. Israeli opposition to the ships, which Walker claimed was effectively the equivalent of attacking a mailman, would be an act that would be recorded “hilariously” in history.

“Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content,” she wrote. “It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?”

However, in the realms of international diplomacy, support for the flotilla has proved to be much more of a dilemma.

Diplomatic dilemmas

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last month raised concerns about plans for a second “Freedom Flotilla” to sail to Gaza asking numerous governments based around the Mediterranean Sea to avoid encouraging the provision of aid through the flotilla. Ban claimed that Israel was being urged to end its closure of Gaza, with legitimate crossings to the country needed to ensure civilians in the strip were adequately supplied.

“The Secretary-General reiterated that, while he believed that flotillas were not helpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza, the situation there remains unsustainable,” the UN said in a statement.

The international organisation has itself established a separate panel of inquiry that it has said was designed to look at the conduct of Israel’€™s military in response to the flotilla sailing to Gaza last year. The working period for the group was extended earlier this year after its four members decided more time was needed to reach an outcome.

Isreal’s blockade of Palestinian territories was imposed back in 2007 over security fears at the democratic election of a government consisting of members of the Hamas group, which do not recognize the country’s right to exist. Both Hamas and the Fatah movement it ousted are now said to have agreed to form a unified government ahead of fresh elections, according to the UN.

Last year, the UN secretary general openly criticized the legality of Israel’s blockade of Palestinian borders asking for a cessation to the policy, despite the country making amendments allowing foodstuffs and certain other civilian goods to pass. Ban reportedly lambasted the Israeli policy of closure as “wrong” as well as being unsustainable whilst talking to international media during a visit to Palestinian territory last March.


Day of protests ends with pepper spraying of Umar Naseer

An opposition protest held last night near the artificial beach was dispersed by police after the group tried to make its way towards the intersection of Majeedhee Magu and Chandanee Magu, the focal point of last week’s violent demonstrations.

Earlier this week police had announced they were restricting protests to the artificial beach and tsunami monument areas, and have since quickly dispersed those conducted elsewhere.

Demonstrators at the artificial beach last night carried placards written in English reading “Remove sex offenders/drug addicts from government”, and “Resign now”.

As the demonstration took place, five rows of police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel armed with heavy wooden batons stood between the 300-400 demonstrators and the route down Majeedhee Magu.

At around 11:30pm demonstrators, attempted to reach the intersection and were forced to split up by groups of police with interlocked arms.

Police eventually used pepper spray to subdue several protesters who attempted to force their way into the intersection, including dismissed Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Umar Naseer.

Placards at the artificial beach

“Five or six people who tried to force their way through our shield line were arrested and taken to police headquarters, and then released,” Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said.

Minivan News observed a light police presence all over the city, with larger squads of riot police stationed near key locations such as the President’s Office and the Chandanee Magu intersection. Several MNDF troop trucks stood ready outside the MNDF headquarters, but the military presence appeared minimal.

Besides the opposition protest and groups of young men hanging around the intersection heckling police, Male’ was unusually quiet for late evening. Entire city blocks in the north-east of the city were closed off and Republican Square was deserted.

An opposition protest in the square that morning involving several hundred people was quickly dispersed by riot police, and covered by foreign media including Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. The protest was subsequently rescheduled for the evening.

Later in the afternoon, a somewhat carnival atmosphere descended over the city as the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) staged a flag-waving counter-protest of several thousand people near the tsunami monument, alongside a concert stage and a police road safety campaign consisting of upturned cars and burned motorcycles.

Five lines of police blocked off Majeedee Magu.

“Anti-government protesters claim the uprising is inspired by the Arab revolution, that people power is rising up,” reported Al-Jazeera. “But here on the other side of town are thousands of voicing pointing out that the revolution has already happened.”

In an interview with the news network, President Nasheed accused the opposition of trying to reinstate authoritarian rule.

“I don’t think these are spontaneous demonstrations. If you look at the events and incidents [this week] it is very easy to understand this is very well stage-managed and fairly well played,” he said.

Al-Jazeera observed that “while leading opposition figures are clearly at the forefront of these demonstrations, they deny this,” and interviewed DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

“It is not attempt overthrow or change the government, it’s just raising voices,” Thasmeen told Al-Jazeera.

Note: Maldives coverage begins at 0:50


Egyptian government shuts Al Jazeera bureau

The Egyptian government yesterday revoked the license of Al-Jazeera in the country, shutting its office in Cairo and withdrawing the accreditation of its staff.

“Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists,” the Qatar-based network said in a statement.

“In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people,” Al Jazeera said.

“Al Jazeera journalists have brought unparallelled reporting from the ground from across Egypt in the face of great danger and extraordinary circumstances. Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt.

The network said it would “continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt” despite the government crackdown.

Egypt has also disconnected internet and phones across the country in a bid to contain skyrocketing dissent over the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Yesterday media in the country reported that elements of the army appeared to be supporting the demonstrators.


The Maldives may drift back into dictatorship

The Maldives is in danger of drifting back into dictatorship, writes Al-Jazeera journalist Mark Seddon on website ‘Big Think’.

“The Maldives is not only the World’s newest democracy—it is one of the World’s most fragile democracies. In recent weeks, the rule of the democratically elected President Nasheed began to look a little shaky, as elements of the old Gayoom regime coagulated under a grubby coalition of MPs and corrupt judicial figures to try and force him out.

“What had infuriated them more than anything else was the seriousness behind the intent of the Maldives to recover huge stolen assets—some $400 million, in fact, that now resides in foreign bank accounts. This grand larceny does not include the wealth already squandered on luxury yachts, palaces and all of the paraphernalia associated with bog standard dictators. It was enough to alarm Gayoom, and his close supporters and family, who it is alleged have paid off enough Opposition MPs to make the Maldives more or less un-governable.”

Read more