#NameThatPolice: Police photo warning sparks social media outcry

The Maldives Police Services on Friday warned social media users against harassing and posting photos of individual officers online, prompting a social media outcry with dozens of Twitter users posting pictures of police brutality with the hashtag #NameThatPolice.

“Publicizing photos of individual police officers, with warnings, on social media is unacceptable,” the police said, claiming the act was aimed at intimidating police officers and inciting hatred towards the police force.

Appealing to social media users to be more responsible, the police warned of penalties against continued harassment.

The warning came after opposition supporters started circulating photos of individual police officers accusing them of criminality, brutality and bribery. The police statement, however, appears to have escalated matters.


Many photos posted by Twitter users were from the brutal police crackdown in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster on February 7, 2012. A Commonwealth backed national inquiry had recommended penalizing officers for brutality, but the opposition says the government had instead promoted officers accused of brutalizing protesters.

Mohamed Shaheed asked, “Are we not allowed to talk about this?”

Speaking to Minivan News, he said the public must publish photos of police brutality, “otherwise it will not stop.”
“This is not aimed at all police officers, just the ones who break the law,” he added.

Some tweets included comical photos of police carrying protesters to police vehicles.

“I think the warning by police is downright ridiculous. Nobody should tell us to stop speaking out against brutality. We will not remain silent when crimes are committed, be it police or any other state institution,” Twitter user Ibrahim Huzam told Minivan News.

“In addition to the lack of discipline and professionalism, police act very hostile towards the public, this is very wrong,” he added.

Tensions are high in Malé with the opposition protesting daily over the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim. Protests have now entered a seventh consecutive week.

Confrontations between police and protesters have increased recently, and hundreds including MPs and journalists have been arrested.

Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz on March 26 said inidivdual police officers have been confronted and intimidated at their homes, adding that efforts were underway to “psychologically weaken” police personnel

Nawaz also accused certain media outlets of attempting to falsely portray police as brutal towards civilians and said the media cut off live feed when protesters attacked police officers. He warned the police would arrest media personnel if they obstruct police duty.

Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim has meanwhile accused the police’s Specialist Operations (SO) officers of framing him by planting illegal weapons at his home and committing criminal activities including the chopping down of Malé City’s Areca Palms in October last year.

The police have denied the accusations as baseless and untrue.

Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on Thursday (March 26).


Ooreedoo introduces new data packages with free Facebook and Twitter

Telecom provider Ooreedoo has introduced new “Best and Biggest” mobile data packages with free usage of Facebook and Twitter and a data allowance up to 200 gigabytes.

“We’re giving the biggest data allowance available in the country for your smartphone – with 200GB, you can do everything and more. And with free access to Facebook and Twitter, we’re making it even easier to be connected to life online,” said Ooredoo Commercial Director S.P Sarathy.

Prince ranges for the data packages vary from a MVR 99 for 500 Megabytes of data, upto MVR 5699 for the 200 Gigabytes package.

According to Ooredoo, the newly introduced packages are available to both Ooredoo prepaid and pospaid customers and can be activated any time by dialing *929#.


Maldivian pro-democracy activists hijack World Travel Market twitter hashtag

The official twitter hashtag of the World Travel Market (WTM) in London has been hijacked by Maldivian pro-democracy activists.

The WTM is one of the world’s major annual travel industry expos, attracting 5000 exhibitors from over 184 countries across the globe. The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) has said 143 representatives from 52 Maldivian companies are taking part in the event.

Dozens of Maldivian activists meanwhile on Monday began flooding the #wtm13 hashtag with images of police brutality and allegations against Villa Hotels owner and presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim.

The hijacking was widely reported by international travel media, just days after the UK’s Guardian newspaper broke a story about Maldivian police importing over US$100,000 in riot-control weaponry from a Singapore subsidiary of UK firm Survitec.

The twitter activists accused Gasim of funding the 2012 police mutiny that led to former President Nasheed’s controversial resignation, and then influencing the Supreme Court to annul the results of the September 7 poll despite unanimous positive assessments from local and international election observers.

Shortly after placing third and narrowly missing a place in the run-off against Nashed, Gasim alleged he had been robbed of between 20,000-30,000 votes and declared “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11”.

On October 7 the Supreme Court overturned the poll on the basis of a secret police report not shown to the Elections Commission (EC)’s defence counsel, and issued guidelines for a new poll on October 19 effectively giving candidates the right to veto elections altogether.

“What happened smacks to me of a child who cannot win a board game, so they tip over the board,” UK Conservative Party MP for Redditch, Karen Lumley told British parliament on November 5.

The October revote was forcibly halted by police just hours before polls were due to open. A third attempt is scheduled for Saturday, just days before the end of the presidential term on November 11.

Hashtag hijack

News of the hashtag hijack was quickly picked up international travel media, drawn by contrast tweets depicting costumed expo mascots and colourful conference hall stalls interspersed with bloodied, hosed and pepper-sprayed protesters: “For much of the day about half the Tweets using the official hashtag were from Maldives protesters,” noted one travel website.

“Travel has both a positive impact and a dark underside. And those unpleasant truths are seeping into the polished booths and buffet tables visited by WTM attendees this year, both online and in person,” wrote Samantha Shankman for the Skift travel website.

WTM tweeted distancing itself from the activists, but did not remove the posts: “We would like to apologise to our followers for the misuse of our hashtag by other accounts. We are no way linked to these tweets,” read a post from the expo organisers.

The coverage follows a downbeat assessment of the industry’s economic performance given by the Finance Ministry this week. According the report given to parliament, tourism growth as measured in terms of bed nights declined by 0.1 percent in 2012 following 15.8 percent growth in 2010 and 9.2 percent in 2011.

“The main reason for this was the political turmoil the country faced in February 2012 and the decline in the number of days tourists spent in the country,” read an accompanying statement.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was not responding at time of press.


Maldives protestors hijack Twitter hashtag: Telegraph

“More than 50 Maldivian companies are attending this week’s event at London’s ExCel convention centre, where they hope to promote the Indian Ocean archipelago as an idyllic holiday destination,” writes Oliver Smith for the UK’s Telegraph.

Instead they may be asked to explain to visitors why the event’s official Twitter hashtag has been inundated with photos of the victims of alleged police brutality and tweets claiming democracy has been destroyed in the country.

Many of the messages are aimed at Qasim Ibrahim, one of the country’s richest businessmen and the owner of several luxury holiday resorts. Mr Ibrahim came third in the first round of voting for September’s presidential election, behind former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected leader who was overthrown in an alleged coup last year, and a third candidate, Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives. But Mr Ibrahim was able to convince the country’s Supreme Court to annul the vote, alleging electoral fraud, despite both the EU and the Commonwealth declaring the poll free and fair.

Others Twitter users utilised the hashtag to repeat claims made by Mr Nasheed that he was overthrown at the behest of resort owners. Others urge a tourist boycott of the country – something Mr Nasheed has also called for in the past. Tourism accounts for around a third of the country’s GDP.”

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MDP cautious over police conduct as Commonwealth assigns election security consultant

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed caution following the Commonwealth’s decision to assign a security expert to observe police conduct during the 2013 presidential election.

The opposition party this week questioned the Commonwealth’s previous lack of success in ensuring security force reforms, adding that it remained “highly suspicious” of Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s conduct in the build up to the election.

Police announced this week that the Commonwealth had appointed Eldred de Klerk to assist with ensuring election security, a decision they declared was in line with “international best practices” after requesting the intergovernmental organisation provide consultancy services.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz met with de Klerk in Male’ on Sunday (August 26) to discuss his planned work ahead of the election.

Minivan News understands a similar request was made to the UN, which opted instead to work with others members of the international community to try and ensure the “smooth running” of next month’s election. Despite rejecting the police service’s request, a UN source today said it appreciated the Commonwealth’s contribution.

The Maldives Police Service earlier this month launched an operation to send large numbers of police officers to islands in preparation for the presidential election with the stated aim of ensuring voting goes peacefully.

Riyaz is also the subject of an ongoing Police Integrity Commission (PIC) investigation over whether he contravened regulations on political neutrality by publishing a letter written by a third party on Twitter urging officers to “say no” to former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The PIC has maintained that it had received no formal complaints concerning the tweet, but was instead investigating the case on the commission’s “own initiative”.

Contacted today on the status of its investigation into the post, the PIC said it was not the commission’s policy to give details of an ongoing case, while also declining to provide a time-line for whether such a “complicated” matter would be finished before September 7.

In July, Commissioner Riyaz said his institution would continue to refuse any orders it deems “unconstitutional”, after expressing concerns over leaked proposals allegedly devised by the MDP to reform the country’s security forces.

Party reaction

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party was cautious at the Commonwealth’s decision to provide an elections security consultant after it’s lack of success in ensuring the police reforms called for in the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report it had backed.

“We will have to wait to find out if the Commonwealth is actually trying to help diffuse mutinous elements [in the police],” said Ghafoor.

The CoNI report was mandated to ascertain the truth behind the MDP’s allegations that former President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign from office on February 7, 2012, due to a “coup d’etat”, after sections of the police and military mutinied against the government.

While the CoNI report concluded there was “no coup, no duress and no mutiny” behind the change of government, the findings did urge changes to the country’s judiciary, legislature, certain independent institutions, and the police service.

The MDP added that it currently had no plans to meet with the Commonwealth’s election security consultant despite its concerns.

“It would be up to the consultant to come and talk with us,” Ghafoor said. “All we know is, if police try to cause any disruption during the election, all hell is going to break loose.”

Despite the MDP’s concerns, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said the party welcomed the Commonwealth’s appointment of a security specialist to assist with ensuring election security ahead of what was likely to be a “highly competitive election”.

Nihan said that although police should have no role in running the election or visiting polling stations – unless required by the country’s Elections Commission (EC) – it was important that officers were present in case of significant disruption.

“Things can go wrong in any given circumstance,” he said, reiterating concerns expressed earlier this week by his party that “major incidents” on the day of voting could compromise a free and fair vote.

Elections Commission criticism

The PPM maintained that it was more concerned with the competency of the country’s EC and its commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek ahead of next month’s vote – rather than security issues with the police.

Nihan maintained that the PPM, along with election rival the Jumhoree Party (JP), were more concerned at what it alleged was the “mishandling” of the upcoming election by the EC, expressing particular concern over whether the commission’s president was fit for the post.

He accused the EC over the last two and a half months of failing to address the party’s concerns about holding free and fair polls, claiming it “could have done better”, while also questioning the timing of allowing IT experts from India to be programming software for the commission. Nihan accused the EC of only offering rebuttals to the party’s concerns.

However, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek this week told Minivan News that he had met with a PPM delegation several times in the build up to voting, providing what he called detailed queries to their questions.

“Every time [the EC has met with the PPM] we have very clearly explained everything to them, answered all their queries and gave very detailed responses to them,” he said. “But there are some demands that we cannot meet. For example, one of their demands was to see our IT section. They wanted to see the hardware and software of our network system, which we cannot do and we are not ready to do for the safety and security of our system.”

The Maldives NGO Federation last week expressed concern that political parties were attempting to discredit the Elections Commission (EC) by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.


Police Integrity Commission to investigate Commissioner Riyaz’s tweet

The Police Integrity Commisson (PIC) has confirmed that it is investigating a tweet posted by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz.

Riyaz yesterday posted a letter he claimed to have been sent, urging the police to “say no” to former President Mohamed Nasheed on September 7, just as they had on February 7 – an event the author described as a “jihad”.

The letter, addressed to the entire police force, praised it for its “patience” in the face of Nasheed’s “cunning” and “malicious” actions during his presidency.

Whilst not responding to inquiries from Minivan News today, Riyaz is reported to have told local media that he had no specific intentions in mind when re-posting the letter.

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek today told Minivan News that his office had received a complaint regarding the letter, and had opted to forward the issue to the PIC.

When asked about his recommendations regarding the social media activities of public officials in the run-up to the presidential election, Thowfeek urged restraint on the part of members of all independent commissions – including the Elections Commission – the police, and the MNDF

“It is advised to be as neutral as possible – even on Facebook – so there will be nothing to complain about,” he added.

EC Legal Director Haneefa Khalid currently facing an internal investigation after the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) accused her of posting  “politicised” tweets.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed told local journalists yesterday that he imagined the tweet had been posted in the commissioner’s personal capacity. When pressed on the appropriateness of such a post, Waheed said that he could not comment further without more information.

Whilst President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad told Minivan News today that he was not personally aware of the Riyaz tweet, he said the government would “express concern” over any such post which threatened free and fair elections.

“We caution everyone in the country to follow election guidelines and not to play into the hands of anyone looking to undermine free and fair voting. Everyone must exercise judgement,” he added.

Commissioner Riyaz last month posted an interview on the police service website maintaining that the organisation would refuse to follow any orders deemed unconstitutional.

“Whichever individual becomes president tomorrow can no longer just change the constitution, the existing law. That individual, holding the presidency, can only bring such big changes with a parliamentary majority,” said Riyaz.

February’s controversial transfer of power came after units of the police refused to obey former President’s Nasheed’s orders, with Nasheed resigning from office soon after.

Days earlier, Nasheed had ordered the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed after the latter had blocked investigations into his own misconduct.

Nasheed’s decision was later described as in breach of the constitution by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM).

Riyaz was appointed commissioner immediately after Nasheed’s resignation, which Nasheed and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) would later claim was a police coup.

The allegations were later rejected by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) that ruled that there had been “no coup, no duress and no mutiny”, while also calling for action taken against unlawful acts committed by the country’s security forces following the transfer.


JP, PPM file complaint against EC Legal Director for “political tweeting”

The Elections Commission (EC) has said it is investigating complaint filed by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhoree Party (JP) against its Legal Director Haneefa Khalid, for alleged political tweeting ahead of the upcoming Presidential Elections.

The JP and PPM filed multiple complaints at the Elections Complaint that included Khalid’s “politicised” tweets. Other complaints involved a group of Indian IT specialists working at the commission, and issues concerning voter registration.

Speaking to local media after filing the complaint, PPM Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof said the party’s main concern was that Khalid was the wife of Dr Ahmed Ashraf, who contested the by-election of parliament’s Ungoofaaru constituency on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ticket following the murder of sitting MP Dr Afrashim Ali. The election was won by the PPM by a narrow margin of 81 votes.

Other grounds for the complaint filed against Khalid, Mahloof said, included her allegedly “politicised” tweets, and singled out one he claimed had offended PPM President and 30 year autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“When Gayoom got the [country’s highest civilian honour] Haneefa tweeted that the award was ‘tainted with blood’,” Mahloof said. Gayoom was awarded the Nishaan Ghaazeege Izzaiytheri Veriyaa (NGIV) on the Maldives’ independence day this year.

Minivan News observed that Khalid did not make the remarks herself, but had instead shared a YouTube video of a report on Gayoom’s award aired by opposition-aligned TV station Raajje Television, titled “The Highest Honour tainted in blood”.

Mahloof told the media that it was completely “unacceptable” for a person in such a position to tweet such political remarks and claimed this would affect the credibility of the presidential elections.

Speaking during a press conference on Sunday, the Vice President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said  the commission would look into the matter and would take administrative action should it find the need to do so.

“We have received the complaint. We will take action after looking into it,” he said.

On the same day, local newspaper Haveeru reported that the Attorney General’s office had begun probing into a disciplinary case concerning Khalid following a complaint filed against her by the police.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham told the newspaper that no comment could be give to media as the case is still under investigation.

Haveeru claimed the police filed the complaint after Khalid “addressed the police disrespectfully” while she was inside Male’ jail meeting a client whom she had been representing in court.

It further alleged that Khalid had been acting as the defense counsel of a man accused of robbing US$122,000 from the Relax Inn Hotel, and had yelled “Money, money” at the officers present at the jail implying that police had robbed the hotel themselves and were attempting to frame her client.

A police media official told Minivan News the matter had been “brought to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office”.

“Yesterday, lawyer Haneefa Khalid while inside Male’ jail disrespectfully addressed the police officers and therefore we have brought this to the attention of the Attorney General’s office,” said the official.

Minivan News was unable to contact Haneefa Khalid at time of press.


Minister of state for tourism resigns, cites “unacceptable” conduct of Minister Adheeb

Mariyam Mizna Shareef resigned from her position as Minister of State for Tourism, Arts and Culture yesterday (June 19), stating on social media that she had quit over unspecified “differences” with Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter after announcing her resignation yesterday (June 19), Mizna wrote that she had found the manner in which he ran the ministry to be “unacceptable”.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Mizna declined to comment on the post, adding that she wished to keep a low-profile and stay out of the political arena.

News of Mizna’s resignation came following the President’s Office announcement earlier the same day that it had dismissed Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal and Minister of State for Economic Development Abdulla Ameen from their posts at the behest of their former party.

Maleeh alleged yesterday that could see no other reason for their dismissals beyond the decision of both Ameen and himself not to back President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s election campaign.

Both men have pledged to back the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate MP Abdullah Yameen during September’s election.

Mizna today confirmed that her resignation as state minister had not been related to the dismissals of Maleeh and Ameen, though she did not elaborate further.

Posting on Twitter following her resignation, Mizna claimed that she had tried to enact change within the ministry during her time in the post, but claimed “things [were] going from bad to worse” despite her attempts.

“Only way is to remove Adheeb,” she concluded.

Mizna’s comments on Twitter prompted a flurry of activity on the social networking site, including one post from an account claiming to be that of a PPM Council Member.

Mizna meanwhile accused Adheeb of being “busy giving away lagoons, sandbanks and uninhabited islands.”

Mizna Shareef’s Twitter profile could not be viewed as of this afternoon.

Ministry response

Minister Adheeb was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press today.

Adheeb told newspaper Haveeru that his “only crime was being the PPM deputy leader.”

“I have become the target of everyone. It has become their purpose to slaughter me politically. But if there’s a corruption issue involving me shouldn’t they go to the Anti-Corruption Commission or a Majlis committee? But [instead] certain individuals are trying to bring me into disrepute. I regret the corruption allegations made about me. But I will not budge. I won’t budge for a government post,” he was quoted as saying.

Tourism Ministry spokesperson Hassan Zameel told Minivan News that Mizna had not raised any official concerns with the ministry relating to allegations of misconduct against Minister Adheeb.

“She may have discussed these matters with the minister or her colleagues, but we have not received an official complaint,” he said. “The ministry can only recognize complaints if someone has put these concerns to us officially in written form.”

Zameel added that yesterday’s resignation of former State Minister Mizna and the dismissal of former Deputy Minister Maleeh would have no significant impact on the day-to-day running of the ministry.

He added that the ministry would continue to operate with the minister and state minister making political decisions, while civil servants would continue to oversee the rest of the authority’s work.


Facebook shuts down anti-government protest page without notice

Facebook has shut down a prominent pro-Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Facebook page, ‘Kula Yellow’, without notice.

The anti-government page was first established in May 2010 and spread by word of mouth, attracting a strong following among Maldivian young people and reaching 23,000 ‘ likes’. Facebook did not contact the administrators before shutting down the popular social media news source, at approximately 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 5.

According to an analysis conducted by Kula Yellow on the site Social Bakers, the youth-run, self-described “name and shame” platform is one of the most popular social media news sources in the Maldives.

Kula Yellow is a reference to MDP’s political party color. The page promises a “source of information against President Mohamed Waheed regime and a tool to mobilise people against continued human rights abuses and police brutality.”

“MDP is fighting for freedom. Kula Yellow facilitates that by providing a platform for them to spread their views, organise protests and events, and it is very helpful if any message needs to be conveyed to supporters instantaneously,” a Kula Yellow co-founder told Minivan News.

“We are updating and uploading media of police and government brutality 24 hours a day. Our posts have revealed many, many, many government secrets and they can’t digest it. Kula Yellow is a threat to them,” he claimed.

“Additionally we have saved many, many, many lives through our social work. For example, if anyone – they don’t have to be an MDP supporter – needs a blood donation we post on the page to find a matching donor,” the co-founder added.

Although the page has never been shut down before, five of the most active administrators have had their personal accounts blocked or shut down since former President Mohamed Nasheed’s controversial resignation February 7, 2012, a Kula Yellow co-founder and administrator told Minivan News.

“Some of the most active administrators’ have been blocked several times following the coup. This was a problem for us on the release date of the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) as well. The current Maldivian government cannot digest anything we are reporting and they are subsequently blocking media freedom,” he contended.

“I’m sure it’s a government act. They are sending continuous complaint reports to Facebook saying Kula Yellow is ‘spreading lies and inciting violence’, but that is not true,” the co-founder stated.

“There are only two or three news media outlets, and newspapers Haveeru and Sun Online back the current government,” he added. “Kula Yellow fills a gap by trying to explain the coup and give a voice to Maldivian people. The government didn’t like what we were posting and cannot come down on us under Maldivian law. Of course they are trying to block us, I’m sure they formally complained to Facebook,” the administrator stated.

“Maldivian intelligence from the Police Services and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) monitor [telecommunications companies] Dhiraagu and Wataniya calls and text messages. They are always trying to intercept communications,” the Kula Yellow administrator said, matter-of-factly.

A second Kula Yellow administrator explained there were many admins spread throughout the Maldives, and they took down inappropriate content, such as threats or misinformation.

“Kula Yellow is very open because it’s a social media platform for the public, so on the rare occasion someone puts inappropriate content on the ‘wall’ the administrators take it down immediately. We try our best,” he said.

“We are not like the many hate pages that supporters of Waheed’s government have up – all of which are up and running smoothly,” he said.

“We will interfere”: police

Police denied issuing complaints about Kula Yellow to Facebook, but admitted to telecommunications interference.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that “so far we haven’t reported anything to Facebook”.

“We will interfere if any social network or internet site is not [run] according to Maldivian law and order,” Haneef added.

The MNDF also denied interfering with the Kula Yellow page, as Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem explained to Minivan News.

“We have not asked anyone to take down Kula Yellow, not to my knowledge. Was it the communications ministry or something like that? They can say anything,” Raheem said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad denied knowledge of Kula Yellow’s existence, as well as any government interference with it being shut down.

“I have never heard about this Kula Yellow thing that you are talking about. We [the government] do not worry about these pages. How do you know Facebook took it down? Facebook is too big to worry about small little pages. The fact that the page has been taken down has nothing to do with the government,” Masood said.

“Maybe they themselves took it down. If their page has been hacked, or shut down maybe the page owners can follow it up with Facebook,” said Masood.

In 2012, administrators of Kula Yellow claimed they had been “threatened” by police over their page’s content. Police officials denied the accusations.

Facebook activism

Kula Yellow contacted Facebook immediately to reinstate the page and say they remain hopeful their page will be restored quickly.

“Yesterday’s action seemed to be a targeted response to the regime’s arbitrary arrest of the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed,” stated Kula Yellow.

“Kula Yellow is disappointed by the action taken against the page by Facebook and calls for them to immediately reconsider and place their support with the people of the Maldives.”

A Kula Yellow co-founder lamented that the situation in the Maldives was very complex and contend that Facebook “clearly does not understand Kula Yellow.”

“Facebook did not check to verify what the government, or individuals from the government regime, were reporting. They were probably following their company policy to remove the page if they received numerous complaints.

“This happened in Syria also. Then journalists reported the story and helped get the page(s) reinstated,” a Kula Yellow co-founder stated.

Kula Yellow is exhorting diplomats and international actors to “understand that this is a violation of our human rights, particularly freedom of expression, and should support Facebook reinstating the Kula Yellow page immediately”.

“There are already many fake Kula Yellow Facebook pages going up and this will continue to spread like wildfire in the jungle. The government can’t stop us. We don’t give a damn. There are a thousand ways to move forward, so well will just find another way.

“In the interim our Twitter page is active,” a Kula Yellow administrator added.

The Maldives this year plummeted to 103rd in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index, a fall of 30 places and a return to pre-2008 levels.

Additionally, the Maldives is one of two countries to be dropped from Freedom House’s list of electoral democracies, in its annual survey of political rights and civil liberties.

Facebook had not responded to Minivan News at time of press.