The Maldivian Democratic Party reiterates its call on the State to withdraw charges against the reporters, and to bring an immediate end to the persecution of journalists.
Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali Naseer, journalists with Raajje TV, the only surviving broadcaster critical of government, were arrested while covering the police and military’s attempt to defuse a ‘bomb’ found near the official presidential residence on November 2 last year. Subsequently, they were charged with “deliberate charge of obstructing law enforcement officers.” Sentencing is scheduled for December 19th. If convicted, the pair could be fined MVR12,000 or sentenced to six months in jail.
The MDP calls for the immediate withdrawal of all proceedings against Wisam and Leevan, and against all journalists. The Prosecutor General has also filed criminal charges against Chief Operating Officer of Raajje TV Hussain Fiyaz Moosa and Adam Zareer, videographer at Raajje TV. Fazeena Ahmed, a journalist at newspaper Mihaaru, was also summoned to the police earlier this week for the first criminal inquiry into a news article since the Government re-criminalised defamation in August. If convicted, Fazeena faces a hefty fine for defamation, and failure to pay the fine leads to a jail term of six months.
The deteriorating human rights and media freedom situation has been continuously noted by a number of international observers. The Maldives fell to the 112th rank on the Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 press freedom index. The report said Maldives was “very hostile for independent and opposition media,” and in August 2016, the Committee to Protect Journalists had observed “the space for independent media in the Maldives has narrowed in recent months.”
“The prosecution of these journalists is part of a sweeping crackdown on the media by the Government, and part of the purge to silence any critical voices. We call on the Yameen regime to end its targeted abuse of journalists, and urge our friends in the international community to not close their eyes to the unabated abuse of press freedom and political dissent in the country,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.