Communications Authority working to identify senders of SMS threats

Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM) Chief Executive Officer Ilyas Ahmed has stated that there is a possibility that persons who send threats via text messages can be identified.

In relation to a recent spate of threatening text messages sent to parliamentarians, journalists, and other individuals, Ilyas stated that the authority is currently investigating the matter to see if the threats were sent via phones or computer software.

“As you know, there are a multitude of mediums via which text messages can be sent now. The ease in which the senders can be identified depends on what medium they have used,” said Ilyas.

Ilyas’ comments come as both journalists and politicians have continued to receive SMS threats in recent weeks, prompting calls for greater state action in finding those responsible.

The CAM CEO explained that if threats are sent via local networks, the perpetrators can be easily identified, while those using foreign networks and computer software will be harder to trace.

“We are monitoring them to see if the messages are sent from a local number. If not, we are also looking into what external network they are utilising,” he said.

He went on to assure that, even in such circumstances, there is a possibility of identifying them if the messages are being sent from within the country.

Ilyas stated that the authority will take action against those sending such messages, adding that it is currently liaising with a number of foreign authorities to find ways to take action in the matter.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed yesterday (August 25) met with local telecom operators Ooredoo, asking for assistance in the authority’s investigation of text message threats.

In addition to this, discussions were also held on how the telecom company can assist the police in the expansion of CCTV coverage and other programmes.

Police media official assured that the police will also be contacting the country’s other telecom operator, Dhiraagu, for assistance in the near future.

Marketing and public relations officials from Ooredoo and Dhiraagu were unable to provide comment at the time of publication.

Continuing threats

Vnews editor Adam Haleem was the latest to receive a death threat on Sunday evening, as did Minivan 97 journalist Aishath Aniya last week, while opposition MP Mariya Didi has also made public a recent threat against both her and her family.

Numerous politicians and journalists reported receiving threats earlier this month, with the latter being linked to gang activity, respectively. The threats against journalists were reported by Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who disappeared on August 8 and is believed abducted.

Following the disappearance of Rilwan’s – known by many as moyameehaa on twitter – the threats sent to politicians and journalists have made clear references to his abduction.

On August 20, Maldivian Democratic Party MP Mariya Didi reported receiving a threat saying, “we will not hesitate to disappear you. Have you forgotten you have a small daughter?”

The same day, journalist Aniya received a message from a sender identified as ‘ISIS’ stating, “You are next on our hit list. Be careful when you walk alone. #fuckmoyameehaa”.

On August 25th, Vnews Editor Adam Haleem received a death threat saying, “If you keep behaving however you like, we will make you disappear, we will behead you. Keep that in mind [expletive]”.

The message was received just days after all media outlets gathered to call for an end to the culture of intimidation, after Rilwan’s abduction. The unprecedented joint statement also called for delays in bringing those responsible to justice.

The Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has also released a statement today expressing concern over the increasing number of threatening text messages being sent to journalists.

The statement also highlighted the number of days in which Minivan News journalist Rilwan remains missing, calling on authorities to expedite the case. The MJA further appeals to the authorities to provide timely updates to the media regarding any progress in the investigation.

“Any attack against journalists is nothing but an attempt to eradicate independent journalism. We call on investigating authorities to treat such cases with high priority and to speedily conclude investigations into such matters,” the statement concluded.


PPM deny rumours that party called for MDP members to be killed

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has denied reports it made threats to kill Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members at a party rally last week.

Local media reported that a statement issued by PPM insisted that the party had not incited or called for violence, claiming that the rumours were due to the party’s “increasing popularity”.

According to local media, rumours had spread on social media claiming that PPM MP Shifag Mufeed had called for MDP members to be killed.

In response, PPM noted that Shifag or any other member had not made the comments, adding that the rumour had sparked death threats to Shifaq.


Rising migrant worker population threat to “Maldivianness, culture and nationhood”: President Waheed

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has warned the Maldives will face difficulties in seeking foreign assistance should it descend to Tier 3 of the US State Department’s human-trafficking watch list.

Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate National Day, Waheed stated the Maldives is now “forced” to take measures against changes to the “national character” due to the rising number of migrant workers in the country.

The Maldives has been listed on the tier 2 watch list for human trafficking for three years in a row. Waheed stated that if the country descends to Tier 3, “it would face difficulties, among other issues, in seeking foreign assistance”.

In 2012, the Maldives only narrowly avoided a descent to Tier 3 – the worst category – after presenting a written plan that, “if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

In his speech today (January 13), Waheed said the government was taking measures to prevent the country from falling into Tier 3 category of human trafficking, by initiating an awareness campaign underway and a draft bill on anti-trafficking submitted to the People’s Majlis.

Foreign influence threatens “Maldivianness”: President Waheed

In his National Day speech, Waheed also warned that the Maldivian population risks being overtaken by the migrant population in just six years if immigration continues to grow at its current rate.

Waheed stated that this was something “no Maldivian can and will, want to accept”.

“If the number of migrant workers continues to increase, [Maldivian] national character will be lost,” the President was reported as saying on the island of Fonadhoo in Laamu Atoll.

“If the influence of foreigners grows, [the] threat of negative impacts on Maldivianness, culture and nationhood is not unrealistic,” he added.

Border control system crucial in addressing human-trafficking

At the National Day speech, the President was reported as saying that an effective border control system was crucial for addressing trafficking.

Last month, parliament voted unanimously to instruct the government to terminate the border control project agreement with Malaysia-based IT group Nexbis, over allegations of corruption.

Speaking about the BSC project last month, Majlis Finance Committee member Ahmed Hamza told Minivan News at the time there was a “worry” within the immigration department that their own border control system would not be sufficient.

Furthermore, Hamza stated there was a “possibility” that human trafficking could increase should the Nexbis contract be cancelled, and to combat this parliament will need to provide a “sufficient solution to deal with these problems”.

Speaking at National Day, President Waheed claimed there were approximately 111,000 migrant workers using work visas and over 40,000 illegal migrant workers in the Maldives.

‘Blue Ribbon Campaign Against Human Trafficking’

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently inaugurated an initiative targeted at raising awareness of the human trafficking issue in the Maldives.

The strategy, entitled ‘Blue Ribbon Campaign Against Human Trafficking’ is expected to include activities to try and raise awareness among students and the business community.

The Foreign Ministry announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with multiple local media outlets in the country as part of the campaign’s aim to raising awareness of human trafficking and other related issues.

The MOU states that the media outlets will produce and broadcast programmes aimed at disseminating information on the issue of human trafficking.

Nasheed’s National Day statement

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed gave his own National Day statement calling for a security force that is “impartial and honest” to help build the nation.

“The nationalism that had defended [our] freedom [in the past] should be beneficial to the people and their progress.

“The true guardians of this system are the people. Today, due to an uninvited interference by the security forces to the people’s rightfully elected government and their interference to the progress of the nation has resulted in re-emergence of the old political culture,” Nasheed said, in a statement.


Hong Kong issues travel advisory for the Maldives

Hong Kong has issued a travel advisory for the Maldives, raising the country to ‘amber’, following several nights of violent protests in the capital Male’.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported a government spokesperson as saying that “Those who plan to visit the Maldives or are already there should monitor the situation and exercise caution.”

The threat indicator now ranks the Maldives alongside Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Russia and Pakistan.

Chinese visitors to the Maldives now constitute the greatest number of tourism arrivals, and are a major emerging market. A sharp increase in recent years offset a decline in European arrivals caused by the global recession in 2008.