Aged 29, Rasheed was an influential critic who posted articles on his website, The Daily Panic, explaining the importance of social justice and drawing attention to governmental incompetence and corruption. He died from his stab wounds in the early hours of 23 April. Rasheed described himself as “disobedient writer” on his Twitter account and said he aimed to cover “the unfiltered truth, the sickening facts, the gruesome details, and – because this is the Maldives – the painfully obvious.”
Zaheena Rasheed, a friend who edits the Maldives Independent news website, said he had been getting frequent death threats and had been reporting them to the police. She told media outlets that his murder has fuelled anger towards the police because, although aware of the threats, they did not take the necessary steps to protect him. A critic of both the government and the Islamist movements that are active in Maldives, Rasheed was detained for three weeks in 2015 for taking part in an anti- government demonstration.
“We are shocked by the death of Yameen Rasheed, who embodied freedom of information, humanistic thought and democratic values in Maldives,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We urge President Abdulla Yameen’s government to shed light on this appalling crime and to do everything possible to ensure that it does not go unpunished. Any restriction on the resources available to the investigation will be seen as tacit approval by government of the murder of one of its most outspoken critics.”
Rasheed’s murder appears to be linked to other free speech violations in Maldives, including other acts of violence against journalists, citizen journalists and bloggers. He waged a personal campaign about Minivan News reporter Ahmed Rilwan’s disappearance in August 2014, often reiterating in posts on his website that the questions raised by Rilwan’s family needed an answer. Despites his repeated insistence and the requests by Rilwan’s family, the police still refuse to provide any information about the state of the investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance, which remains unsolved.
Rasheed’s murder recalls the almost fatal attack on journalist and human rights defender Ismail Hilath Rasheed, who was badly stabbed in 2012 after receiving repeated death threats.
Maldives is ranked 112th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.