Additional reporting by JJ Robinson
Police have arrested one person in connection with the attack that left Raajje TV journalist Ibrahim Waheed ‘Aswad’ in a critical condition early on Saturday morning.
Waheed was attacked while he was on his way to see two Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalists who were admitted to hospital after being attacked.
Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz in a tweet informed the public that one person was arrested in connection with the attack, which he described as a murder attempt. Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported that the suspect arrested was aged 22.
Waheed, a senior reporter for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-aligned television station, was attacked with an iron bar while riding on a motorcycle near the artificial beach area.
The attack left him unconscious, and he was transferred to a hospital in Sri Lanka for treatment.
Minivan News understands that Aswad is still unconscious but his condition has been stabilised. He is moving his eyes and responding to people in the room, but not yet speaking.
Doctors are bringing him out of unconsciousness slowly, said an informed source, but were confident that he would recover. Aswad is currently under observation, after which the doctors will decide whether surgery is required.
Maldivian journalists took to the streets of Male’ to protests against the recent attacks, joining international organisations who have also condemned the violence.
The attack on Waheed was the most serious incident of violence against a journalist in the Maldives since July 2012, when a group of alleged Islamic radicals slashed the throat of blogger Hilath Rasheed. Rasheed, who had been campaigning for religious tolerance, narrowly survived and has since fled the country.
The United States Embassy in Colombo has released a statement expressing concern over the recent attacks on the journalists.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right, and we strongly condemn these attacks on Maldives media personnel. We urge all Maldivians to refrain from violence, urge protesters and police to respect the right of all media outlets to cover demonstrations,” the statement read.
The United Nations in the Maldives said the violence amounted to an attack on freedom of expression and merited “prompt investigations”.
On Tuesday, the Commonwealth’s Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed alarm at the recent string of attacks against journalists, and “called on all sides in the political conflict to halt violence against the media.”
“We condemn these vicious attacks on reporters and call on all parties to do their utmost to ensure that journalists are able to work safely,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz.
The CPJ said journalists in the island nation “have faced numerous attacks since elected President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted a year ago.”
“Nasheed accused his successor, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, and former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of having orchestrated a coup. Since then, the country’s political crisis has steadily deepened, with the government
promising fresh elections this year, but Nasheed facing legal charges linked to his time in office. India was drawn further into the crisis this month when Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male, according to international news reports. News coverage in the Maldives has reflected the country’s political polarisation.”