Journalists need to act more professionally to prevent further confrontation: MJA, MBC

National media body figureheads have called on journalists to act more professionally to prevent future confrontations between themselves and the public.

Their comments follow a brutal attack on a senior reporter from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-aligned Raajje TV station, who was left in a critical condition.

The reporter, Ibrahim ‘Aswad’ Waheed, was attacked with an iron bar while riding on a motorcycle near the artificial beach area in the capital Male’.

Two Television Maldives (TVM) journalists were also attacked on the same night with an irritant – reported to be paint thinner in local media – while covering protests on Sosun Magu in Male’.

While no arrests have been reported by police, Maldives Police Service Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that “progress” had been made in regard to the investigation.

Senior figures from both Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) have since said that journalists need 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.

“If the professional standard can be maintained, similar incidents can be contained and controlled,” Shahyb told Minivan News.

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.”

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

Meanwhile, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik 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.

Police protection kits

Assistant Commissioner of Police Ahmed Saudhee told local media on Saturday that police will now provide safety equipment for journalists when covering protests, and that special efforts will be made to investigate and prosecute the attacks on persons of the media.

“Right now, we can do two things towards extending protection for journalists. As such, we will give special attention to investigate and prosecute the attacks made on the police, and we’ll work hastily to towards this end.

“Next, in order to cover the protests as closely as possible, we will provide the kits used by the police to a selected journalists, for their safety and protection,” Saudhee was quoted as saying in Sun Online.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Haneef told Minivan News today that the kits will be made available to journalists should they make a request for the equipment.

Violence condemned

Maldivian journalists took to the streets of Male’ yesterday to protests against the recent attacks, joining international organisations who have also condemned the violence.

The United States Embassy in Colombo released a statement on Saturday expressing concern over the 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.

Meanwhile, the United Nations in the Maldives said the violence amounted to an attack on freedom of expression and merited “prompt investigations”.