State television journalist Moosa Naushad was attacked by approximately 15 individuals while filming the opposition-led protest outside Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) last evening.
Naushad was struck down from behind. After showing his media badge the badge was taken from him and he was continuously kicked and beaten while lying on the ground, MNBC Director Adam Shareef said.
MNBC Editor Thoyyib Shaheem intervened by showing his own media badge, but was tasered in the stomach. Naushad was taken to Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) at 1:00am on January 24 where he was treated for a broken hand. Shareef said the journalist had sustained fractures in his shoulder blades and feet, but had no internal damage. Naushad had not been released from IGMH at time of press.
The protesters, including opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs Ilham Ahmed and Ahmed Mahlouf, allegedly made violent gestures with stones and wooden sticks while advancing on the MNBC building. MNBC have asked why their offices and staff have been targeted, “as if MNBC was ruling this country.”
MDP supporters were also reported protesting near the judiciary, before heading south towards the Haruge and clashing with opposition supporters.
“Over the past several nights our reporters have been verbally abused, threatened and warned they would would be killed by hanging or drowning,” said an MNBC official.
Shareef said he had “no idea” why the media organisation has been targeted, but “we are a government company so perhaps that’s the reason.”
The opposition has claimed that the attackers came from the MDP Haruge and attacked Naushad after reportedly mistaking him for a VTV reporter.
Last night marked the tenth consecutive demonstration since two minority opposition party members were questioned for “hate speech” against the government. The situation developed after military forces took Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed into custody on January 16, after the government accused him of endemic corruption and political favoritism.
Although journalists have been targeted for the past several nights, Naushad’s beating was the most severe instance, Shareef said.
According to Shareef the two sides have not had any direct communication over the situation: “the opposition doesn’t want to talk to us, they are boycotting us as a state broadcaster. But we don’t want to speak with them either,” he said, adding that Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and the Broadcasting Commission have released statements on the matter.
President of the MJA Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir on Wednesday said that the MJA had released a statement condemning both the attack on Naushad and damage to the offices of DhiTV as soon as he learned of the attacks.
President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, meanwhile blamed the attack on opposition parties and condemned them for “lurching towards violence, thuggery and intimidation in order to achieve their political ends.”
In a statement, he called on opposition parties to “respect journalists’ right to report the news free from fear or intimidation.”
While MNBC journalists “are not afraid”, Shareef said the state broadcaster will no longer be covering anti-government protests on-site.
“I don’t want to lose my staff. If possible we will have a live feed, but in any case we will cover the whole story, every point,” he said.
Police estimated that between 300 and 400 protesters turned out last night, and claimed that aside from the attack on Naushad only “a few minor injuries” were sustained. After being dispersed at midnight the crowd spread “throughout the city, between the Maldives Monetary Authority building and the [ruling] Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Haruge.”
Police understand that another protest is scheduled for 9:00pm on Tuesday evening.
As the protests continue opposition leaders are calling for extreme measures.
Speaking during last night’s protests, firebrand opposition politician Umar Naseer said bloodshed was not beyond the group’s means, according to MNBC reports. The station also reported that the Adhaalath Party’s Sheik Imran Abdulla, another protest leader, had called for jihad. Hours earlier Sheikh Imran had stated that “non-stop protests are maybe not the best way, even if it’s fighting for the citizens’ rights, as their time and businesses are affected” at a press conference.
PPM MPs Mahlouf and Illham were not responding to calls at time of press.