Tourism promotion concerts will show the world the true Malé: Adeeb

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has told local media that performers are being invited to the Maldives in order to promote tourism, and that they have nothing to do with religion.

“While the entire world has started to see Malé City as a lair that harbours members of the Islamic State or extremist militants, foreign artists performing here will show the world what the situation here is truly like,” he was quoted as telling Haveeru.

“Maldives does not belong to the Islamic State,” he continued.

Adeeb’s comments follow continued criticism of music concerts held in the Maldives’ capital, with US R&B singer Akon set to perform in the national stadium on Thursday (January 8).

A scheduled performance from Jamaican dancehall singer Sean Paul, as part of the ‘Tourism Arrival Countdown Show’, was cancelled following an online death threat. Indian artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant stepped in at the last moment to headline the New Year’s Eve show.

After a statement from the Adhaalath Party yesterday expressed concern that such concerts are defying Islamic teachings, the party’s only MP Anara Naeem today tweeted that the government should rethink its policy.

“The current government should deeply consider stepping out of the musical universe,” wrote the Makunudhoo constituency MP.

Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed today refused to comment on the upcoming appearance of Akon, though his ministry previously expressed concern at the singers’ planned appearance in Malé in 2010,which was eventually cancelled due to technical and security concerns.

Following the online threat against Sean Paul – dismissed as a hoax by the government – religious groups spoke out against the holding of such concerts, while Shaheem himself called them “unacceptable”.

The President’s Office moved quickly to assure the safety of the Maldives for visitors, despite signs in 2014 that the capital has become less safe for locals.

President Abdulla Yameen warned of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against tourists and urged Maldivians to leave aside political differences to assure a safe and secure environment for investors and tourists alike.

Adeeb – who has today been appointed acting defence minister – told Haveeru that the concerts were intended to promote the Maldives as a brand. Last week’s show concluded with the announcement that the country had received 1.45 million tourists in 2014.

He explained that the government had not paid any money for the artists to appear, as well as suggesting that the Maldives should focus on national happiness instead of just economic development.

“Where else are such famous artists seen performing for free? We should not just focus on GDP but on ‘growth development happiness’ as well,” Adeeb told Haveeru.

The concept of gross national happiness has been made famous by Bhutan, which is the only country to use the measure as its official yardstick for development. The UN also began compiling a World Happiness Index in 2012 though the Maldives has yet to take part in the survey.

Related to this story

Adhaalath Party concerned that concerts are defying Islamic teachings

Sean Paul cancels New Year’s appearance, citing security concerns

President Yameen warns of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against guests


Everything will change once Rilwan is found, police commissioner tells Haveeru

Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed has said that everything happening in Maldivian society would change if missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan were to be found.

In an exclusive interview with Haveeru, Waheed denied police negligence in the investigation while again refusing to reveal any specifics into the investigation’s progress.

“Saying that Rilwan hadn’t been found, I don’t believe any slips have been made in the investigation which would justify the accusation. But there are lessons to be learned with every investigation. We are learning the lessons,” he said.

Rilwan’s family yesterday lodged an official complaint with the Police Integrity Commission, accusing police of negligence in investigating the 28-year-old’s disappearance, as well as disrespect shown towards the family.

Waheed today repeated suggestions previously made by the home minister that non-governmental and media organisations were partially responsible for the apparently stalled investigation.

A reports commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network suggested radicalised gangs were the most likely culprits in the abduction 83 days ago. Police later dismissed the findings as irresponsible, though home minister has since acknowledged gang involvement in the disappearance.

“No one should think that we have forgotten about Rilwan’s case,” Waheed told Haveeru today.

“There are many different analyses. Considering the current progress of the investigation, and given that I manage investigative teams, I cannot, at the moment, give you 100 percent confirmation that a gang or group was involved in this.”

Asked if investigations had led police to believe Rilwan was still alive, Waheed only replied that they had found no evidence he was dead.

Numerous international group – most recently Amnesty International – have called upon police to expedite investigations.


15 journalists receive death threats over gang reporting

Fifteen journalists received murder threats via text message on Sunday warning them against reporting on gangs in the wake of street violence which has seen at least one death and nine injured.

“[We] will kill you if you keep writing inappropriate articles about gangs in the media,” the message from an unlisted number said.

Journalists from Haveeru, Raajje TV, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), VTV, Sun Online, and Vaguthu received the death threat.

Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) president and a long time journalist Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said the threats have been brought to the attention of the Maldives Police Service (MPS).

“It is still unclear who are behind these texts, or how they are sending it. Regardless, we don’t take this as a simple matter. We have requested the police to look in to this,” he said.

A police spokesperson condemned the threats and said the case is under investigation.

An IT expert with experience in the telecommunications field told Minivan News it would be difficult to identify the culprit if the text messages were sent through an online mass text message service.

“Unless it came from a local IP address it would be almost impossible to trace it back. If they used anonymous proxy servers to send the texts it could be traced back to the SMS gateway, but no further,” he said

Serious threats

Haveeru journalist and recipient of Maldives’ journalist of the year Fazeena Ahmed said journalists have received similar threats in the past, specifically during the Supreme Court’s delay of presidential polls in 2013.

“I don’t think think this should be taken lightly. Especially considering that parliamentarians have received similar threats and that there is a lot of violence going on these days, I would say this is very serious,” she said.

Two more Haveeru journalists received the same text message.

Rajje TV journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed, who nearly died from a fatal beating in February 2013, was among four Raajje TV reporters who received the text message.

“I still haven’t got justice for the life threatening attack against me, and here is a threat once again. I take this very seriously. It has been brought to the attention of the police, I hope they will investigate and provide necessary protection,” he said.

Meanwhile, private broadcaster DhiTV reported receiving threats via phone calls following a report on gangs on Friday.

“Last Friday after we aired a report on gang violence, our office received two threatening phone calls. This happens whenever media cover gang related news,” CEO and Chief Editor of the channel Midhath Adam told Minivan News today.


Raajje TV reporter Ahmed Fairooz believes the threat may be a ‘political ploy’ possibly to divert attention.

“One reason I believe this is because I don’t cover crime at all, I work at the political desk. So there is no reason gangs should worry about me. And the fact that MP Eva Abdulla received a similar message with political references also shows that,” he said.

MP Eva Abdulla received threatening text messages today after she questioned the Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer in the Majlis. The texts were sent under Naseer’s name and number, and accused her of making false allegations against the minister

“National police are also with me. Through a single order from me to Special Op[erations] boys you tiny MP can be shredded into pieces,” read one message sent to the Galolhu North MP.

Fairooz said he had received threats in the past from political activists and more recently following a report on Maldivian militants fighting in Syria.

Vaguthu journalist Maahil Mohamed also said these threats are likely to be sent for some other purpose than by actual gang members intending to attack journalists. But regardless of the reason behind it, Maahil said it would not keep him from covering such news.

History of threats

threat analysis report from the Maldives Broadcasting Commission in May revealed that thirty percent of broadcast journalists are reluctant to report gang activity.

The report found a staggering 84 percent of journalists surveyed reported being threatened at least once, while five percent reported being threatened on a daily basis. The report also identified gangs, politicians, and religious extremists as threats to media freedom, and claimed approximately 43 percent of journalists do not  report threats to authorities.

In addition to threats, Raajje TV offices were destroyed in an arson attack in October. The station has accused the police of negligence in preventing the torching of their headquarters and the attack on journalist Asward.

DhiTV’s Midhath also noted that coverage of the Armenian drug traffickers the Artur bothers was followed by threats. The brothers were alleged portrayed in some outlets as having connections to Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb.

In 2010, staff members of DhiTV and Haveeru were attacked following the coverage of the release of a convicted gang leader in 2010. A Haveeru employee was stabbed with a knife in the incident.

On Saturday, six MP s from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), including three female MPs received murder threats via text message.

The first text stating MPs will be killed if they “behave inappropriately.” The second one said, “It is not a sin to kill those who challenge Allah’s words and call for freedom of religion. Afrasheem Ali was an example.”

Former MP and moderate Islamic Scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali was brutally murdered at his own home in October 2012, while MPAlhan Fahmy was unable to walk for months following a stabbing in February.


Haveeru journalist released without charges

A journalist from newspaper Haveeru based in Addu City who was arrested yesterday has been released without charges.

According to the local daily, Ahmed Adshan was released after five hours in police custody. He was told that there was “nothing to investigate” while keeping him in custody.

Adshan was detained allegedly for taking photographs of police officers in plainclothes who were frisking people at the Feydhoo harbour.


Haveeru journalist arrested in Addu City

A journalist from newspaper Haveeru has been taken into custody in Addu City today allegedly for taking photographs of police officers in plainclothes who were frisking people at the Feydhoo harbour.

The local daily quoted a Feydhoo resident as saying that that the officers approached Ahmed Adshan – who is based in Addu City – and insisted that the reporter could not take pictures.

“They did not have police tags or names. So Adshan asked them to show their police cards. They asked Adshan to show his card. [But] because they didn’t show their cards, Adshan didn’t show his,” the Feydhoo resident said.

Police have meanwhile insisted that Adshan was arrested for both driving without a license and obstructing police duty.

However, a source from the island told the newspaper that he was unable to meet Adshan at the police station and was told that the journalist was not in custody for a traffic violation.

A friend of Adshan who was with him at the time of the arrest said that Adshan attempted to take photos after parking his motorcycle and that he had a valid driving license.

In September 2012, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the growing number of arbitrary arrests of journalists by the Maldives Police Service.

The press freedom NGO said in a statement that it “deplores the repeated obstruction of media personnel in the course of their work and urges the government to put a stop to arrests designed to intimidate journalists and encourage self-censorship.”


Maldivian Democracy on the Brink: US ambassador

“Maldives now finds itself at a crucial crossroads.  Through weeks of political bickering and questionable delaying tactics, Maldives democracy is now in peril,” writes US Ambassador to the Maldives Michelle J. Sison for local newspaper Haveeru.

“Further delays in Maldivian Presidential elections and continued misuse of institutions have already led many in the international community to question the legitimacy of both the process, as well as the outcome of those elections.

As in any country after a hard-fought political campaign, people will still disagree.  Truly great leaders put aside those differences in the aftermath of an election and work together in the national interest and for the greater good.

Ultimately, the power of any government rests in the consent of its people.  If citizens are not allowed to freely express their desires, then those that pretend to govern cannot be perceived as having legitimacy to govern.

To ensure successful elections and protect its democratic traditions Maldives needs to allow balloting that is free, fair, and inclusive, and the results must be respected by all parties, without retribution.

We saw the first part of that formula on September 7, and now we must see both on November 9 for there to be legitimacy and true democracy.

As Maldives stands at the brink, now is the time for all Maldivians to unite to salvage their democratic future.”

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High Court upholds injunction preventing Haveeru sale

The High Court has upheld a Civil Court injunction preventing the sale of Haveeru, the Maldives’ largest print and online newspaper.

In a ruling issued Thursday (July 25), Sun Online reported that the High Court upheld an injunction on selling the paper until hearings were concluded into a dispute over an alleged failure by Haveeru Chairman Mohamed Zahir Hussain to pay an agreed share of the publication’s profit to two other individuals dating back to 1983.

Local media reported that the High Court ruled no sale of Haveeru could be permitted until questions over the publication’s ownership were resolved by the Civil Court.

Minivan News understands that Haveeru has been placed for sale by its chairman and was soliciting bidders in May this year.

The Maldives’ second oldest newspaper, Miadhu News, and its assets were meanwhile bought in April by presidential candidate and Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader, MP Gasim Ibrahim.


Haveeru interviews fornication flogger Abdul Khalig

“Some may perceive a man who day in day out is tasked with whipping his fellows to be remorseless or even sadistic. However, Khalig, to the contrary is quite warm and extremely friendly,” writes Niumathullah Idhurees and Mohamed Visham for local newspaper Haveeru.

“He can be seen addressing the victims at the end of his whip outside of the courtroom with empathy even though he is at most times at the receiving end of verbal abuse and threats. His response to such abuse and threats is always a warm smile. For him, it is nothing new. For him, it’s just a job.

“‘It has to be done in a certain way. I was taught by judges and various other people before I was given this job. I see this job as a blessing. There aren’t many who want to do this job,’ the 33-year-old Khalig, who assumed his job in 2010, told Haveeru.

“According to his memory, Khalig has enforced flogging sentences of over 300 people which amounts to thousands of lashes with his leather whip.”

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Haveeru shareholders sue chairman for failure to pay share of profits since 1983

Two shareholders of the Maldives’ largest print and online newspaper, Haveeru, have sued the company’s Chairman Mohamed Zahir Hussain alleging he had run the company on his own behalf and failed to pay their shares as stated in a 1983 agreement when the company was first established.

The first hearing into the case was held today in the Civil Court. A lawyer representing two of the shareholders told the court that there had been an agreement made on April 1, 1983 at the establishment of the publication stating that the profits would be share equally among Chairman Zahir Hussain, Ibrahim Rasheed, Abdulla Farooq and Mohamed Naeem.

According to local media, the lawyer told the court that Zahir has been running the company without the involvement of the other three shareholders and in such a way that the other three were not receiving any of the profits.

The suit requests, the court order Zahir pay the amount owed since 1983 to the other shareholders.

The lawyer also requested the court issue an injunction preventing the sale of Haveeru to another party before the case reaches a conclusion, on the understanding it would harm the interests of the other shareholders.

The court has said that it will decide on the request for injunction during the next hearing. Haveeru was represented by former Attorney General Husnu Suood.

Minivan News understands that Haveeru has been placed for sale by its chairman and is soliciting bidders.

The Maldives’ second oldest newspaper, Miadhu News, and its assets were meanwhile bought in April by presidential candidate and Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim.  Resort tycoon Gasim is also a member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and owner of private broadcaster VTV.