Sacked TVM reporter to be reinstated

The employment tribunal has ordered the state TV to reinstate a reporter who was sacked unlawfully in February and ordered a payout of MVR 100,800 ($6536) as compensation.

Nasrulla Haadhy, a long time employee of Television Maldives (TVM), was dismissed when he refused a transfer to a bureau in southern Addu City.

“I was sent to the Addu City bureau, but there was no office there. They also did not give me food and salary allowances that were provided to others who worked out of Male’ City. Their reason was that my wife is from Addu City. I refused, and then they dismissed me,” he said.

Nasrulla now works at privately-owned Channel 13.

“I intend to return to the job. I worked there because I loved to work there and I have no problem with the management. I just disagreed with two people from the senior management,” he said.

In March, a TV Anchor Ali Shamin was dismissed from TVM after he alleged the station was biased in its coverage of political unrest triggered by the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

A senior journalist Mohamed Afsal was demoted in the same month after he criticized the criminal court for refusing to let journalists leave the court premises during a break in between hearings in Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

Minivan News understands Afsal was reinstated to his former position when he threatened to file charges at the Employment Tribunal.

The government in April seized control of the state TV and radio stations after dissolving the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation through a new law.

Ruling party MPs appointed five members proposed by President Abdulla Yameen to the new Public Service Media (PSM) board without interviewing them.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called a move an attack on press freedom and described the PSM as a “state mouthpiece.”

Umar Manik, the chairman of the former board, was the only incumbent who was appointed to the new board.

Staff at the PSM have long complained of favoritism and lack of independence in successive governments.

Some staff who spoke to Minivan News today said the new board had promised changes.

“We have always complained about favoritism and discrimination. The new board promised change but it is still the same,” a female reporter who wished to remain anonymous said.

Another senior journalist, however, said some journalists who were deliberately left without work are now included.

“The new board has included those who were isolated over disputes and is encouraging us to work together,” he said.


International concern over missing journalist grows while threats continue

Politicians and journalists have continued to receive death threats as international groups express concern regarding the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan 12 days ago.

“We call upon all parties to refrain from threatening media activists for performing their professional duties,” read a statement released by the Office for the United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights yesterday.

The statement also expressed concern at Rilwan’s disappearance while hoping for a prompt resolution to police investigations.

“We also urge the relevant authorities to address any threats and intimidation directed at journalists and other civil society activists and to do their utmost to ensure that they are able to operate without fear for their safety.”

Meanwhile, a text message sent to Minivan 97 journalist Aishath Aniya at 12.20pm today, from a sender identified as ‘ISIS’, read as follows:

“You are next on our hit list. Be careful when you walk alone. #fuckmoyameehaa.”

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Didi also reported a threat, apparently received from the same sender at 12:25pm warning, “we will not hesitate to disappear you. Have you forgotten you have a small daughter?”

Both politicians and journalists reported receiving threats earlier this month, with Rilwan himself reporting on the latter threats.

Representatives of Minivan News in Colombo met today with diplomats representing Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Switzerland and representatives from the EU delegation regarding Rilwan’s disappearance.

Growing concern

Evidence obtained by Minivan News strongly suggests Rilwan, known as @moyameehaa on Twitter, may have been abducted. Security experts have suggested he was targetted as a result of his activities as a journalist and micro-blogger.

The Home Ministry has updated local media today on the progress of the investigation, with Home Minister Umar Naseer assuring that 40 of the country’s best officers were working on the case.

Yesterday also saw further statements on Rilwan’s case from the International Federation for Journalists (IFJ) with the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The IFJ and SAMSN noted that Rilwan’s disappearance had come “at a time of increased tension in the Maldives with a spike in threats against the media by criminal gangs and religious extremists in recent weeks.”

A number of abductions and attacks targeting perceived secularists and homosexuals were reported prior to the Ramadan period, with a rise in gang violence following the Eid holidays.

“The disappearance of Ahmed Rilwan has now become a matter of grave concern as his whereabouts have not been known for 11 days. We urge the Maldivian government and concerned agencies to do everything possible to find him,” read the joint statement.

The IFJ and SAMSN comprise all major journalists’ trade unions and press freedom organisations in South Asia.

“Critical time has been lost in the search for Ahmed and if the government hopes to ensure journalists can continue in their duties to report freely and without fear in the Maldives.”

“For the sake of Ahmed’s family and media freedom, the circumstances of his disappearance must be determined as a matter of urgency and if there has been misadventure or deliberate intervention, then every effort must be put to locate those responsible,” the statement continued.

Additionally, the New York-based CPJ noted that Rilwan had been particularly critical of local politicians and Islamists, urging a thorough investigation.

“We are deeply concerned for the well-being of our colleague Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.

“We urge the authorities to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to find him.”

Reporters Without Borders have already lent their voice to calls for an expedited search for the 28-year-old human rights advocate.


Broadcasting Commission cannot regulate way in which Supreme Court is addressed

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has told the Supreme Court that asking media to write the names of persons in a specific way is against international best practice.

The commission’s letter was sent to the Supreme Court on Sunday (March 16) in response to a court request for MBC to enforce strict rules on how Supreme Court judges must be addressed in the media.

It was also pointed out to the court that the commission is mandated with regulating broadcast media alone.

MBC claims to have received a letter suggesting that the court’s justices were being addressed in ways other than how they should be, requesting that the commission inform all media outlets on the appropriate manner in which to write the names of the Supreme Court bench.

An official at MBC told Minivan News that the letter stipulated the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz’s was to be preceded by the title ‘Chief Justice of the Maldives Honorable Al Ustaz’, the title ‘Justice Honorable Dr’ should be used for Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi, and ‘Justice Honorable Al Ustaz’ for the rest of the bench.

MBC’s reply to the court – signed by the commission President Mohamed Shaheeb – stated that it was not within the commission’s mandate to dictate the content of any station, and that broadcasters were free to work in accordance to their own editorial guidelines in such matters.

The commission highlighted that it does only what is mandated by the Broadcasting Act and regulations, and that it ensures that all licensed broadcasters abide by the code of conduct formulated by the commission.

The Maldives Media Council – established under the Maldives Media Council Act – is mandated with establishing and maintaining a code of conduct for journalists in the country. Minivan News has learned that the council has yet to be approached by court on this matter.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Journalists Association President Ahmed ‘Hirigaa’ Zahir has said that the association is also of the view that journalists should not be forced to use names of anyone in a specific way.

“Anyone can request the media to use write their name how they want it to be written. But it should not be a requirement. Media reports in simple language,” said Zahir.

“While members of parliament are addressed as ‘honorable member’ in the parliament or justices are addressed in a specific way within the courtroom, it does not have to be the case in reporting or speaking in general public.”


MBC requests government’s commitment to uphold media freedom

Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has requested President Abdulla Yameen include two points related to media freedom in his “first hundred days” plans – a series of objectives announced by government institutions to be achieved within the first hundred days of his presidency.

In a letter addressed to the President Yameen, MBC President Mohamed Shaheeb requested to that all cases filed against journalists and broadcasters be withdrawn and for the president and government institutions to sign the five-point pledge to uphold media freedom proposed by the commission.

He asked the president to make these two requests part of the hundred-day road map, suggesting said that doing so will show the new government’s level of commitment to ensure media freedom in the Maldives.

MBC’s five-point pledge was first formulated in 2013 during Dr Mohamed Waheed’s presidency. The commission had planned and announced an event for signing the pledge to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, although the event was later cancelled.

The “right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information, views and ideas” is enshrined in Article 28 of the constitution, as is the right to protect sources of information.

The five points of the pledge were as follows;

  • To be free from prejudice by giving fair and equal access to the media.
  • To ensure the safety of journalists,
  • To protect journalists from punitive measures and harassment,
  • To provide a conducive environment for journalists to do their jobs,
  • To enhance the role of media in a democracy by allowing free flow of information.

During President Waheed’s presidency, the Maldives saw a decline in press freedom, falling thirty places on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index to 103 rd.

RSF noted that, following the events of 7 February 2012, the Maldives witnessed violence and threats against journalists, including the first attempted murder of a journalist.

“Many journalists have been arrested, assaulted and threatened during anti-government protests,” reported the press freedom NGO.

President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was a coalition partner in the Waheed government, with party members holding various senior government posts. Yameen’s Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was Home Minister under Waheed, at the time describing the opposition MDP aligned ‘Raajje TV’ as an “enemy of the state”.

Raajje TV faced the most discrimination and violence during this period – one prominent journalist was seriously injured in an attack in February last year, before the station’s headquarters were burned down last October in a premeditated arson attack.

The destruction of Raajje’s studio brought international condemnation, with particular criticism reserved for the police’s failure to prevent the attack. The Police Integrity Commission last month recommended prosecution of two officers in relation to their negligence on the night of the attack.

Shortly after President Yameen’s inaugration, police sent a case involving senior officials RTV for criminal prosecution regarding the broadcasting of a report critical of the Supreme Court. Both MBC and the Maldves Media Council (MMC) – independent institutions tasked with media regulation – have expressed concern over the matter.


Raajje TV arsonists caught on CCTV without masks

New CCTV footage of the arson attack that destroyed opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV’s offices shows several of the six arsonists without masks, and implicates an additional six men in the arson attack.

CCTV footage aired by Raajje TV on Sunday (October 13) shows the six assailants who set fire to Raajje TV parking in front of the station’s headquarters. The men arrive on motorbikes with masks. However, one of them takes off his mask and then puts it back on before he enters the buildings.

The Maldives Police Services has also released CCTV footage showing two men donning masks on Ameer Ahmed Street, a few blocks away from Raajje TV offices, shortly before the fire at the station’s offices.

Raajje TV News Head Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed told Minivan News he had received reports that police have arrested two men in the case. Police would not confirm arrests, but said they have begun a manhunt for the men caught on CCTV. Police have not released any information on the identity of the assailants.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have condemned the police for failure to defend the station despite Raajje TV’s repeated requests for police protection, and the forwarding of a specific threat the previous evening.

The station returned to air the same day on donated equipment and has begun broadcasting a report providing further details of the arson attack. According to the report, shortly before arsonists entered Raajje TV, an additional six masked men broke the glass front door of the Sri Lankan Airlines offices next door.

CCTV footage shows the six men using the elevators in the building to check the name boards on every single floor of the building. Meanwhile, people gather on the pavement outside and start to take photos of the broken glass.

Raajje TV believes the six men were trying to locate the station’s second studios.

“We believe [they] were attempting to torch both of Raajje TV’s studios. However, they were unable to torch the second studio because they could not locate it,” the station said.

Unable to find the Raajje TV offices, five of the six get on motorcycles and drive away, while the other gets into a car parked in front of the building, the station said.

Meanwhile, at Raajje TV’s offices, five men doused the station’s control room and live electronics in petrol as the sixth man held the security guard hostage. One of the masked attackers poured a trail of petrol out the door as the others retreated downstairs. He lit the trail, creating a fiery explosion that briefly engulfed him. He stumbled down the stairs, just as fireball inside in the office exploded the door of the station off its hinges. Further footage shows a massive explosion of fire in the control room of the station.

According to Raajje TV, after torching the offices the men beat the security guard, covered him in gasoline and left him on the ground floor of the building. Five of the six then get on motorbikes, accidentally leaving behind the man who was burnt in the explosion. One of the motorbikes comes back a few minutes later to retrieve him, Raajje TV alleged.

Crew on the airport ferry – docked opposite the station – told Raajje TV they had attempted to call the police since the doors of Sri Lankan Airlines offices was shattered, but police had not answered the 119 emergency number.

Other witnesses told Raajje TV they ran to a police vehicle parked 200 feet away from the station’s office on seeing the assailants leave. The police then took action, the source said.

Raajje TV believes a total of 12 men were involved in the attack. Of the 12, four went to Hulhumalé after the attack, four went to a picnic island in Meemu atoll, and four went to Ellaidhoo Island Resort, the station said.

Speaking to Minivan News, Raajje TV’s News Head Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed said the station had suffered over a million US dollars in damages, and is currently functioning on donated equipment. The station is still unable to cover live events.

“Our staff are our biggest asset, not the equipment that was burnt. They have to put in double the effort to produce news. I’m very proud of them,” Asward said.

Raajje TV has opened up a bank account for donations at Bank of Maldives (BML). Deposits can be made to BML Account no. 7704 700410 001. Asward said the station had received approximately US$10,000 in public donations as of today.

The station has alleged police and government involvement in the arson attack, namely Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb.

Adheeb has denied the allegations and said they “politically motivated, biased, baseless claims.”

“Targeting political rivals will only impede efforts at finding the real culprits,” Adheeb told Minivan News.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on October 7 released a statement criticising what it called police failure to defend the station.

“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” the statement said.

Speaking to the press the following day, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz said the police had been unable to station officers at Raajje TV as many were being utilised at the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) protests following a Supreme Court order to suspend presidential elections.

“Our human resources are too limited to have police stationed there. So we get the police to check the area when they are out on patrol,” he said.

Raajje TV has increasingly come under attack since the controversial transfer of February 7, 2012. The station’s reporters have been assaulted and arrested, while the station has suffered several sabotage attempts.

In July 2012, the police and the President’s Office had said it would not cooperate with the TV station, blocking the station from President’s Office’s press conferences and police protection at protests.The Civil Court has since ruled that the police and president’s office’s decisions to ostracize the station were unconstitutional.

In August 2012, critical cables in the station’s control room were cut, terminating the station’s broadcast. Several Raajje TV journalists have also reported arbitrary arrests and assaults. In February 2013, men wielding iron rods on motorbikes assaulted Asward leaving him with near near-fatal head injuries.

According to Raajje TV, the station has an audience of at least 95,000 people, one of the largest shares of Maldivian media.

New CCTV footage Raajje TV aired of the assailant’s arrival at the building

CCTV footage aired by the Maldives Police Services

Raajje TV report on arson attack (In Dhivehi)


Military deploys soldiers to protect Maldives media after arson attack

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has taken to the decision to provide security services to various media outlets across the country following the arson attack on opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News that military officers were now manning “almost all” the country’s television stations as well as the premises of other media outlets.

Colonel Raheem said that, rather than being a reaction to a specific threat, the MNDF had decided to assign officers to guard a number of media stations immediately following the arson attack that destroyed Raajje TV’s offices in Male’ this morning.

“This was our own decision, although some [media] have requested they be provided protection,” he said, adding that officers had also been deployed to Raajje TV, which relaunched its broadcasting this afternoon.

He added that MNDF officers were acting as part of ongoing efforts to provide security for any areas deemed “vulnerable”, having previously provided similar support in the past for the Maldives’ electricity and water infrastructure.

The Maldives Police Service today said it was not involved with the MNDF’s security operation, with its own officers instead performing patrols outside the perimeters of media organisations.

Raajje TV was attacked by a group of masked individuals who doused the station’s computers, desks and main lobby with petrol. The office’s guard was later stabbed and hospitalised with critical injuries.

The attack took place despite the station having previously requested police protection following warnings of an impending attack.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed this morning that police had received the letter requesting security, and said they “took action by patrolling the area.”

Media violence

The attack is the second raid on the station’s building by masked assailants.  During the first attack – in August 2012 – assailants sabotaged equipment in the station and cut critical cables.

The main office of Villa TV (VTV), a private broadcaster owned by Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader – and third-placed presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim – was attacked during anti-government protests on March 19, 2012.

Extensive damage was reportedly caused to VTV and its property, with the station briefly being brought off air – an act claimed by the station’s owner to be tantamount to “terrorism”.

The Maldives Media Council meanwhile today released a statement condemning the Raajje TV attack as an attempt to “eliminate” one of the country’s most watched broadcasters, calling for security forces to do more to protect media outlets and journalists.

“In view of that, MMC has continuously requested to investigate these cases and asked security providers to be more attentive to media security issues. MMC is consciously discussing all relevant stakeholders to ensure protection of journalists and media stations.”

The MMC last week declared its intention to file a no-confidence motion in the Majlis against Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) members via Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee.

The council stated its belief that the broadcasting commission had failed to create a healthy broadcast media environment, instead creating fear and discomfort, and that it was therefore unable to fulfill the Broadcasting Act’s mandates.

Media freedom

MMC member and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir meanwhile today maintained that media should not cover live events and other developments in the country in a manner that would incite violence.

Zahir confirmed the MCC also published a statement yesterday (October 6) criticising any media found to be trying to incite institutions or individuals to perform violent acts.

The statement specifically condemned any media found to be spreading calls for “terrorism and unrest”, something it said was not permitted even in nations regarded as leading in international standards of press freedom.

Zahir said that the MCC were aware of a number of examples where numerous unspecified media outlets had been covering news in a way that could create unrest.

“Sometimes the language used by [these media outlets] goes beyond what is acceptable within democratic values,” he said.

Zahir cited one notable example of media inciting unrest was by covering the statements of certain politicians who encouraged people to “violate the law” and go against state institutions.

He added that all media had a responsibility to the nation to decide whether or not to cover statements that might lead to violence or unrest.

Asked if the MMC’s statements could infringe on constitutionally-guaranteed press freedom, Zahir argued that the media oversight body was responsible under law to ensure such media freedoms were used in the “right manner”.

“The point is media needs to work for a better society. Media freedom has to be for the betterment of society,” he clarified today.


Police reject claims that assault of Raajje TV journalist was politically motivated

Police have dismissed claims that an attack last month on a senior reporter for private broadcaster Raajje TV was politically motivated.

Journalist Ibrahim Waheed (Aswad) was left requiring major surgery abroad after he was beaten unconscious with an iron bar while riding on a motorcycle near the artificial beach area of Male’ on February 23. He was reported at the time to be on his way to see two Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalists who were admitted to hospital after being attacked.

National media bodies have since raised concerns about a growing number of attacks on journalists. The same bodies have also claimed that reporters and other media figures needed to be more professional in order to ensure similar incidents and attacks can be better “contained and controlled” in future.

The police’s Head of Serious and Organised Crime Department Mohamed Daud declared at a press conference today that Aswad’s assault should not be viewed as a politically motivated attack, or an attempt to silence national media.

The claims were made as police announced that two suspects – an 18 year-old and 21 year-old – had been arrested in connection to what was believed to be a “planned” attack on Aswad.

Daud told local media that both suspects had criminal records and were believed to belong to “groups” based in the capital, though no further details were provided as police continue their investigations.

Speaking following the press conference, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today told Minivan News that with investigations continuing into Aswad’s attack, no motive had so far been established.

Following the arrest yesterday (March 12) of a second suspect in connection to the attack, Haneef added that the police investigation had so far found no evidence to imply a political motivation or that Aswad had been assaulted due to his role as a senior reporter for Raajje TV.

Targeted attack

Addressing Daud’s claims today, Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said he would not speak contrary to the police view on the case. However, he maintained that Aswad had been specifically targeted by his attackers.

“We cannot investigate the matter ourselves, so I cannot go against what the police have said. However, what I know is that Aswad is a journalist and he was attacked whilst out on a motorbike,” he said. “It was a targeted attack.”

The attack on Aswad 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.

Aside from the attack on Aswad, Hiriga continued to express concern at what he believed were a growing number of attacks on journalists of late, notably following recent anti-government demonstrations in the capital.

Just last week, a journalist for private media group Sun and a cameraman from broadcaster Villa Television (VTV) were attacked near to the residence of former President Mohamed Nasheed during coverage of his arrest.

Two Television Maldives (TVM) journalists were also attacked with an irritant while covering protests on Sosun Magu in Male’ on the same night Aswad was assaulted.

“Too many opinions”

Following Aswad’s attack, National media bodies including the MJA last month called on journalists to act more professionally to prevent future confrontations between themselves and the public.

Senior figures from both Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) said that journalists needed to act in a more professional manner in order to help prevent future confrontations between the public and reporters.

MBC Vice President Mohamed Shahyb told Minivan News that journalists have been targeted because “hatred has been building” towards them over a long period of time.

“Some journalists are not doing their work professionally in the Maldives.  The biggest problem is that they do not have much education or training [in journalism] and because of that they write anything,” Shahyb told Minivan News. “If the professional standard can be maintained, similar incidents can be contained and controlled.”

The MBC Vice President claimed that there are “too many opinions” leaking into news reports and that politicians need to start “pointing their fingers” at journalists who are not working in the correct manner.

“Social networking is also a big problem. Even if they work professionally, they then go onto social media sites and start expressing their own personal feelings, this is an issue,” Shahyb said.

MJA President, Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, expressed similar concern, adding that journalists need to be more impartial with their reporting.

“We need to encourage media to be more objective. When we listen to the TV or radio we can’t tell the difference between an opinion piece or the actual news itself.”

Zahir has also requested the media to act more professionally and stop “spreading hatred”, while calling for police to give greater protection to journalists.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has also of late called on the media to “encourage stability, unity and harmony” in the country, adding that those responsible for the attacks will be brought to justice.


Human rights NGO calls for international observers in Male’ over fears of CNI-related violence

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) NGO has today called for the international community to send observers to Male’ in time for the release of the findings of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

With the CNI expected to publicly release its findings on Thursday (August 30), FIDH said that it was “extremely concerned” about the potential for violence in the build up and aftermath of the report’s release.

“The CNI was established in May to determine the nature of the transition of power in February, which led to the so-called resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed,” the NGO stated.

“These events were followed by continuous unrest in the streets of Male’ and severe repression of demonstrations by state security forces. FIDH calls on the international community to immediately send observers to Male’ to prevent further deterioration of the human rights situation in the country.”

The NGO’s statement comes a day after the Maldives Police Service (MPS) launched an operation to introduce increased scrutiny of the Male’s streets and surrounding waters in order to try and control fears of a potential outbreak of unrest ahead of release of the CNI findings.

Maldives Police Service Assistant Commissioner Hussain Waheed today told reporters that authorities had decided to strengthen security across the capital and other islands, in order to “not give any opportunity to create unrest”.

However, Waheed claimed police would provide full support and security services to demonstrations held “peacefully and within the contours of laws”.

Media Freedom

Discussing the current political situation in the Maldives, FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen claimed the NGO was concerned with a number of cases of violence and a “deterioration” in media freedom since February’s controversial transfer of power.

“Since last February, we have witnessed fast-increasing political violence in the Maldives, as well as the multiplication of arbitrary arrests, sexual harassment of female protesters and legal and physical harassment of opposition leaders, including murder attempts,” she claimed. “In such a context, the wait-and-see approach adopted by the international community has become unsustainable and irresponsible.”

During a visit to Male’ by the NGO earlier this month, FIDH claimed it had witnessed an ongoing “deterioration” in press freedoms since February.

“The influence of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the extreme polarisation of the media have been a cause of concern throughout the [constutitional] reform process, and since last February, the authorities have been accused of harassing pro-opposition media,” the NGO said in its statement.

FIDH President Belhassen noted particular concern with the violent attack earlier this year of local blogger Hilath Rasheed, who was left in a critical condition after being stabbed in the neck near his home in Male’ last month.

FIDH alleged that the attack was conducted by religious extremists based on interviews conducted with Hilath after he had to fled the Maldives after partly recovering from his injuries. The government has denied there was proof of any religious motivation behind the attack, claiming it had been carried out by rival gang members.

“FIDH found that the general public has little trust in public institutions, and that these institutions are seen as ineffective in breaking impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. Authorities also have failed to investigate police violence impartially,” Belhassen stated. “Moreover, despite all the evidence available, the investigation of the attempted murder of human rights defender Hilath Rasheed has not progressed.”


MJA expresses concern over alleged media boycotts

The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has expressed concern over boycotts of certain media outlets by state institutions, political parties and other entities.

In a press release issued yesterday, the MJA stated it had received multiple complaints from media personnel regarding the issue. One such complaint alleged that private broadcaster RaajjeTV had been given exclusive access to interviews with the MDP following former President Nasheed’s recent trip abroad.

The MJA also highlighted the President’s Office’s apparent refusal to cooperate with private broadcaster Raajje TV.  The organisation has claimed that these alleged media boycotts, which are perceived as being sympathetic to opposing political views, were becoming alarmingly common in the Maldives.

Speaking to Minivan News, MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said that although the boycott issue had been present from the time multi-party politics was established in the Maldives, the problem had become a growing concern of late.

“At a time when media itself is so polarized and prone to political rivalry, we are concerned that political actors are finding it harder to accept media reports which are not aligned with their own personal opinions. This leads state institutions or parties to allow access only to selected media, in effect denying other media the opportunity to fulfill their journalistic tasks,” he said.

Hiriga stressed that owing to a lack of resources, media outlets may not be able to attend every event they are invited to, adding that state institutions and political parties must however remain equally accessible to all media.

He emphasized the importance of not boycotting any media outlet based on their editorial policies or perceptions of political leaning, while at the same time noting the importance of the media’s objectivity in its reporting of news.

The MJA also stated that a boycott of any media institution would be neither encouraged nor accepted by the association.  The statement also called for political actors and the general public to lodge complaints with the relevant media authorities should they have complaints concerning standards of journalism.

In response to the MJA press statement, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor stated that the party held no such policies to boycott media outlets. He went on to say that the party’s events were open to all media and that he felt some outlets opted to not attend them intentionally.

President’s Office Spokesperson, Abbas Adil Riza, Media Secretary Masood Imad and the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Last month, state officials accused Raajje TV of acting irresponsibly with its reporting by spreading what it called “baseless” allegations about the conduct of officers and inciting violence.

Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed previously named RaajjeTV as ‘enemies of state’ in a press conference held on July24, the same day on which the Maldives Police Service released a press statement stating its refusal to cooperate with or provide protection to the same channel.

Meanwhile, Raajje TV last month continued to accuse police of targeting, assaulting and harrasing its reporters.

A statement from Raajje TV on July 10 read: “Raajje TV journalists have been forced to live in fear as they have increasingly become targets of attacks by the national security forces, particularly the police service. The station also believes that these attacks and harassment have been the source of emotional distress and psychological damage to all Raajje TV employees.”