Maldives: Channel 13 media workers harassed during opposition-led protest

Maldives Police attacked a Channel 13 camera operator and harassed the channel’s chief operating officer and station deputy in two separate incidents during opposition-led protests in Male on February 19. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) call on the Maldives police to respect press freedom and ensure journalists are able to freely and safely report.

Maldivian journalists and reporters during protest rally against the attack on Channel 13 Journalists. Credit: MJC/ Twitter.

Channel–13 cameraperson Mohamed Shaheem was tackled to the ground and injured by police as he attempted to cover the protests in the Alimas Carnival area of Malé on Februrary 20. Channel–13 was only the network with live coverage of the protests. Following the incident, Shaheem was admitted to a local hospital for treatment.

Organized by both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People's National Congress (PNC), the protest called on the government to nullify the state’s phase two distribution of its flats   under "Hiyaa" public housing scheme project  of Hulhumale in North Male, saying the distribution was ‘unjust’. The public housing project included development of 7,000 flats. The protesters also demanded authorities to release disgraced former president Abdulla Yameen, who is currently serving a jail term for money laundering.

The same day, police used force to move Channel-13’s chief operating officer, Mohamed Samah, and the station’s deputy-in-charge, Hussain Ihsan, from a restaurant near the protest, despite both of them wearing media passes. Video footage of the incident shows police barging in to the restaurant and forcefully manhandling the journalists out of the restaurant.

Maldivian journalists and reporters rallied on February 21 in front of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC). Journalists carried posters and placards calling on the government to stop attacks on the press and journalists.

The media community noted the incident as one in a series of actions from the Maldivian authorities, by which intimidation is used as a means to silence independent or critical reporting.

The Maldives Journalist Association said: “We believe that all journalists and media should receive an equal opportunity to cover and report on protests and demonstrations. Timely investigations and firm actions against such incidents remain imperative to create a safe environment where journalism would thrive.”

The IFJ said: “We urge the Maldivian authorities, including police, to respect press freedom. Intimidation and attacks on media worker attempting to do their jobs is not acceptable.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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