Maldives: Opposition TV channel threatened, three journalists arrested
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Maldivian authorities to immediately free two journalists with opposition TV channel Raajje TV who have been held for the past four days, and to stop hounding the country’s opposition media.
Arrested on 16 March as anti-government protests were taking place on the streets of the capital, Malé, Raajje TV reporter Mohamed Wisam and programme head Amir Saleem are accused of making a video showing masked police officers expressing their opposition to the government. A criminal court has ordered them held for ten days.
Mohamed Fazeen, another Raajje TV journalist, was also arrested on the evening of 16 March for “defying police orders” but was released the next day.
The arrests of Saleem and Wisam came just hours after Ahmed Nihan, the leader of the ruling party group in parliament, accused Raajje TV of being involved in posting an “anti-government video” – the video showing the masked policemen – on YouTube. This is denied by Raajje TV.
The party’s vice president, Abdul Raheem Abdulla, subsequently reiterated a call for the security forces to close Raajje TV, which previously had to close in early February under pressure from the authorities.
“We urge the authorities to immediately release the two journalists, whose detention has been extended without any concrete evidence being produced to support a judicial investigation,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“The authorities must stop harassing Raajje TV on the grounds that it does not support President Yameen’s government. With the country under the yoke of an extended state of emergency, respect for media freedom is the best way to emerge from this persistent crisis and thereby serve the public interest.”
Ever since the political crisis erupted in Maldives at the start of February, Raajje TV has been the target of repeated harassment by the government, with heavy-handed arrests of its journalists and threats of violence. The comments by the ruling party’s vice-president prompted threats on social networks to burn the TV station down.
Maldives is ranked 117th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.