Maldives authorities must swiftly investigate the recent assaults of journalists Hassan Shaheed and Ahmed Misbaah and ensure that members of the press can report on public events without fear of violence by police, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On the morning of Monday, February 6, police officers assaulted Shaheed, a reporter and videographer for the privately owned broadcaster Channel 13, and Misbaah, a camera operator for Channel 13, while they were covering protests near the country’s parliament, according to news reports and Channel 13 station manager Ibrahim Saeed, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Protests broke out near the parliament building on Monday calling for the release of the opposition leader and former president, Abdulla Yameen, who was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison on money laundering and corruption charges, and ahead of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s final address ahead of elections in September.
Police charged at the protesters, and while doing so pepper-sprayed Shaheed and hit him with a shield, pushing him to the ground and knocking him unconscious, according to Saeed and a video of the incident posted to Twitter. Officers shoved Misbaah to the ground and stepped on him, according to those sources.
“Maldives authorities must investigate the police assault of journalists Hassan Shaheed and Ahmed Misbaah and hold the officers responsible to account,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Police must respect the right of journalists to freely and safely report on events of public interest ahead of the upcoming presidential election in September.”
In that video of Shaheed being pushed to the ground, he can be seen carrying a camera and wearing his press pass around his neck.
Misbaah received treatment for injuries to his stomach and Shaheed remains under medical observation as doctors suspect he received a brain hemorrhage and spinal injuries, Saeed said.
Maldives Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed told CPJ by phone that police are conducting an internal review into the incident involving Shaheed, and denied that the journalist was pushed or sustained a head injury. Hameed said he was unaware of the incident involving Misbaah.