Journalists fined for ‘obstructing police’ in Maldives31 Jan, 2017
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) express serious concern over the court verdict on January 24 to fine two television journalists for ‘obstructing police officers’ during live coverage.
Mohamed Wisam, 21, and Leevaan Ali Nasir, 20, both of pro-opposition Raajje TV, were fined MVR 28,800 (approximately USD 1,870) each by the criminal court. They are the first journalists to be sentenced in the Maldives in more than a decade. The court, which had found them guilty in December, didn’t impose a four-month jail term as prosecutors requested because they were first-time offenders. The fine is to be paid within a month.
Wisam, Leevaan and another Raajje TV journalist Hussain Fiyaz Moosa were arrested during the TV’s coverage of a bomb scare in Male, in November 2015. Both of them were accused of attempting to prevent police from arresting Fiyaz.
Wisam, along with TV’s cameraman Adam Zareer, is also faces trial on a second count of police obstruction over his arrest while covering a March 2015 protest. The verdict is expected on February 27.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is deeply concerned by the verdict as it sends a chilling effect on journalists while covering incidents that the public deserves to be informed about. The journalists were on reporting as per their duty and were not willfully obstructing the policemen. The IFJ is also concerned about the declining press freedom situation in the Maldives and believes such charges will weaken the freedom further. The IFJ urges the Maldivian government to ensure that journalists can perform their duty without any hindrance or fear of repercussions.”