Journalists arrested in continuing crackdown in the Maldives19 Mar, 2018
The Maldives Police arrested three journalists of opposition-aligned Raajje TV on March 16 and charged two of them with criminal offences for allegedly uploading videos on social media which were critical of the government.
The police arrested senior video journalist Mohamed Wisam and Head of Programmes Amir Saleem with court orders after the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leaders accused Raajje TV of producing and uploading the YouTube video. The video showed three masked people in police uniform saying that they would join the opposition rally. On March 18, the Criminal Court remanded Wisam and Saleem for 10 days in custody.
Journalist Mohamed Fazeen was arrested on allegations of defying police orders during the opposition parties’ protest demonstrations in Male’. He was handcuffed and taken into custody by traffic police. Fazeen was released on March 17 after more than 24 hours in detention.
Raajje TV denied that the station or its staff were involved in making or uploading the video. Following the accusations and calls by the PPM to shut down the station on March 16 and 17, the station have also received several threats of arson attack and has sought police protection.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses serious concerns over the incidents of arrest of journalists; and accusations without evidence of carrying out illegal activities. The IFJ also condemns threats of arson attack on the station and demands that the journalists be released immediately, and security is ensured to protect the television station from any attack.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is seriously concerned by the pressure on independent media in the Maldives since the imposition of the state of emergency on February 5. Press freedom has suffered as journalists have been subjected to harassment, and opposition media has been baselessly blamed for supporting protests. The IFJ urges the Maldivian government to respect press freedom and ensure that journalists and media can freely report on happenings of the country without fear of reprisal.”
The IFJ has joined the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee of Protect Journalists (CPJ) to express deep concerns on ongoing restrictions and threats on media and press freedom in the Maldives, and called on authorities to allow media to carry out work without reprisal.