Committee to Protect Journalists

Authorities in the Maldives should immediately release three journalists detained this week while covering political demonstrations in the archipelago nation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Earlier this month, Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the country, was sentenced to 13 years in prison following a trial on terrorism charges, according to news reports. In recent days, Nasheed’s supporters organized protests across the country to call for his release, reports said.

On Wednesday evening, police arrested Mohamed Wisam, a journalist for the private pro-opposition broadcaster Raajje TV, and Adam Zareer, a Raajje TV cameraman, while the journalists were covering an opposition protest in the capital, Male, according to news reports. A police official said that the journalists and several demonstrators were arrested for “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders,” news reports said. A court today placed Wisam and Zareer under a five-day remand, the reports said. They have not been charged.

In a statement today, Raajje TV said, “Over the past month, Wisam and Zareer have been working tirelessly in covering the various protests and activities held in Malé City, in difficult circumstances and often under the threat of violence.”

On Tuesday, police arrested Mohamed Niyaz, cameraman for the privately owned Channel One TV station, while the journalist was covering a protest in the capital, Male, according to news reports. Niyaz was arrested for allegedly obstructing police duties by aiming a camera light directly at police officers, according to news reports citing a police statement. A court placed him under a five-day remand, reports said. He has not been charged.

“By holding these journalists without charge for days at a time, authorities in Maldives are clearly trying to suppress news coverage of events through silencing and intimidation,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We call on authorities to immediately release Mohamed Wisam, Adam Zareer, and Mohamed Niyaz, and allow journalists in the Maldives to do their jobs freely and safely.”

Raajje TV has been attacked and its journalists assaulted repeatedly in recent years, according to CPJ research. No one has been held accountable for the attacks, according to the broadcaster.