President concerned over police clash with journalists

President Mohamed Nasheed has expressed concern over the clash between journalists and police during the opposition led-protest on Monday night.

Several journalists from different media organisations have reported violent police attacks on journalists covering the riot.

The protest began as a gathering in front of party’s head office, but degenerated into a riot when protesters marched to the President’s official residence of Muleeage.

A journalist from Miadhu, three journalists from DhiTV, two journalists from VillaTV, one from newspaper Miadhu and a photographer from Haveeru reported they were attacked by police.

President’s Office issued a statement saying that it had received reports that journalists covering the opposition protest were injured by police officers who tried to control the situation.

The statement said the President’s office held a meeting yesterday to discuss the issue with the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Maldives National Journalists Association (MNJA) and the Maldives Media Council.

Special Envoy to the President Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair, Deputy Under Secretary of the President’s office Aishath Shuweykara, Communications Coordinator Husham Mohamed and a police media official sat in the meeting with the media representatives.

The statement acknowledged complaints received from NGOs claiming that journalists were injured during police attempts to control the area, that they were deliberately targeted, that police forced journalists to move too far away from the area, and referred to journalists rudely.

The statement also acknowledged complaints that pepper spray and tear gas was sprayed into the area without warning, according to the NGOs.

Zaki told the delegates that the Maldives Media Council was establishing policies for journalists on how to cover riots and protests, and called on all concerned authorities to cooperate with the council.

Zaki said he do not believe that there was any hostility between journalists and police.

Opposition DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that the reputation and dignity of the country was lifted among the international community after the press freedom was offered in the new constitution, and that the incident that occurred that night was disgraceful.

”The police acted upon orders from the President, they obstructed the work of the journalists while they were trying to broadcast the riot on air,” said Nihan. ”I strongly condemn the police actions.”

Nihan said the President was liable for the police action.

”It is against the words of the President – media is the fourth pillar of democracy, we will demand their freedom,” Nihan said. ”Police reactions were quick and very violent that night.”

He alleged that the attack on the media was given upon a request by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Moosa Manik.

”It was not even 48 hours after Moosa warned that he would ‘show some of the media what I’ve got’. He has also warned that action would be taken against Villa TV and DhiTV,” Nihan claimed.

He also regretted that international organisations such as Reporters Without Borders did “not appear to care” about this incident.