MVR50,000 offered for information leading to Rilwan’s return

The family of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla have offered a reward of MVR50,000 (US$3,240) for information leading to the successful return of the 28-year-old, missing for 15 days.

“We feel that this investigation is very slow compared to the seriousness of the problem,” explained Rilwan’s brother, Moosa.

“And the government is not taking this seriously.”

Moosa called on anyone with relevant information to contact the family on 7791120 or 7773250.

Following criticism of President Abdulla Yameen’s response to questions regarding the disappearance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Thursday evening (August 21) expressing “deep concern”.

Rilwan was last seen on the Malé-Hulhumlé ferry in the early hours of August 8, less than an hour before neighbours reported seeing a man forced into a vehicle outside his home.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon also expressed concern regarding acts of intimidation and reprisals to journalists in general.

“Freedom of media facilities a greater degree of interconnectedness and awareness in the community, and is the cornerstone of any democratic society. Therefore, the protection and safety of journalists is fundamental not only at an individual level, but at a national and international level as well,” read the statement.

Rilwan’s disappearance has prompted media outlets across the political spectrum to band together, with a joint statement calling for an end to a persistent culture  of media intimidation expected later today.

All media outlets involved in the statement are now prepared to call Rilwan’s disappearance a case of abduction.

“We are very grateful for all journalists’ support,” said Minivan News News Editor Zaheena Rasheed, who has spearheaded the coalition of concerned journalists.

“Rilwan’s disappearance comes at a time of continued intimidation of the press. We want to send out the message that we will not allow such intimidation to continue.”

Threats made against journalists covering gang violence in June followed a series of attacks on media facilities and personnel over the past two years.

The attempted murder of blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed in 2012 was followed by the near-fatal beating of journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed and the later arson attack on his employer Raajje TV in 2013.

No convictions have been made in relation to any of these incidents, although two men are currently on trial for the Asward attack.

Following Rilwan’s disappearance, threats against media personnel have continued, with discussions amongst journalists revealing an extended and pervasive campaign of intimidation cutting across political party lines.

Police raided a number of residences in the capital Malé on Thursday evening though police told local media that they were unable to reveal whether the searches were in relation to the missing journalist.

The Home Ministry last week assured that Rilwan’s disappearance had been given “high priority”, with a team of 40 officers now working alongside divers from the Maldives National Defence Force in the search.

A statement released by police on Wednesday (August 20) called for an end to public criticism of its investigation.

“It is with regret we note that some politicians and media outlets have been spreading false information that leads public to feel concerned about police work,” read the statement.

“Although the police did not provide every detail of every measurement taken by the police or every work police did, for security reasons, the police have provided details to adequate people.”

After interviewing witnesses regarding the abduction, Minivan News delayed publication after consultation with police, for the above reasons. After publication by other media outlets, however, Minivan felt compelled to release sufficient details to the public to make clear the nature of the case.

“The police advises not to politicise the issue concerning the missing journalist and not to spread information that will lead people to be concerned of police work, to all the politicians and media outlets that work as such,” continued the statement.

Numerous international groups, including the UN Office for the Commissioner of Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders, have expressed concern over the disappearance and called for a swift response from authorities.


Government offers MVR1 million reward if national team reaches AFC Cup semi-finals

President Abdulla Yameen has offered a MVR1 million (US$64,850) reward to the national football team if they make it to the semi-finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup – scheduled to begin in the Maldives next week.

Speaking at a special function held last night for senior government officials to meet the team, Yameen expressed his desire “to make sports into something which transcends politics.”

“And for Maldivians the king or queen of sports is football,” he said.

The President’s Office has confirmed this amount will be paid by the government but did not comment on how it would be acquired or whether it be taken from the national budget.

“This cannot be valued in material terms, the joy it would bring to our hearts cannot be measured,” he said, noting that the team would receive even more rewards from the people of the Maldives.

Yameen’s generosity followed Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim’s offer on Monday of  MVR500,000 reward for the team “even if they don’t win the tournament”.

“Please don’t disappoint us, take us forward. God willing, we will win these matches. With the grace of God, and his will, the Maldivian national team will persevere all the upcoming challenges without any change in their ambitions.”

The AFC Challenge Cup matches will be played at the National Stadium in Malé City and Hithadhoo Zone Stadium in Addu City.

President Yameen notes that hosting the AFC challenge cup in the Maldives was a difficult task, but his government decided to do everything it could for youth and to unite the nation.

Shedding light on the benefits of hosting the tournament, he said it would put the Maldives on the tourism charts and playing matches outside of Malé at the Addu City stadium would bring economic development to the region.

Having upgraded the stadium to AFC standards would provide more opportunities for Maldivian teams to play more regional and international matches, with the resulting of improving Maldivian football.

Sports manifesto

Noting that his government gave a special importance to football and sports in general Yameen said that progress was being made in implementing the youth and sports-related programs in his manifesto

“We are going through very tough times [financially], even so we included those funds by the grace of god and we will deliver it. We included MVR300 million [in the budget] for youth and sports activities.”

The work of establishing sporting complexes on all islands with over 2000 people had already begun with futsal and turf stadiums being given particular focus.

Assuring the youth that all football resources required for the next ten years will be established within his five year term, the president also announced development of the ‘Kulhivaru Ekuveni’ sports complex in Malé as a “Sporting City”.

He said the National Stadium in Malé would be upgraded,  while a brand new sporting complex was planned to be established in Hulhumalé with a modern football stadium and integrated services.

In an effort to display the youth’s “individual unique talent” to the world, the president said a football match would be organised with the national football team of Japan, and a cricket match with the Sri Lankan national team, remarking that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had done the same before him.

“It is not a simple task to include MVR300 million in the budget every year. We are experiencing [financial] difficulties in many areas right now. However, even with that, we wanted to make sports into something which is beyond politics – for the Maldivian youth, to forget the past, for friendly relations and unity among us.

He appealed to the people of Maldives to support the national team disregarding any differences in political ideologies,  requesting all citizens to “make the national team jersey popular at stadiums and streets”.