Maldives: media workers harassed, temporarily arrested for covering protestEvent
- Initial Date
- Feb 20, 2021
- Event Description
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.
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.
Maldives Police Service said that they accidentally arrested a journalist while arresting protesters from Le Souq Cafe at yesterday’s opposition protest, and that they released that individual as soon as it came to their attention that he is a journalist.
According to the police, the protesters used offensive language and profanities at the police and obstructed them from doing their job at yesterday’s protest. When asked to evacuate the area, some protesters then entered the Le Souq Cafe. The police forcefully removed the protesters from the café and the Deputy Head of Channel 13 was mistaken for a protester and arrested.
A video of the scene now publicised shows four journalists of Channel 13 sitting at a table when the police entered the café. The journalist had an identification card attached to his front pocket showing that he is a journalist and many people were also heard shouting that he is from the media. However, the officers barged in and arrested the individual. The video shows the police forcefully taking the journalist down the stairs.
Regarding the situation, police further said that the protesters and the journalist tried to create chaos at the scene when asked to leave. The police maintains that the journalist purposefully fell onto the floor directly disobeying the police and that this behaviour was not expected from a journalist.
In addition to this, police said that the department tries their best to ensure that media covering protests and other such events have the best possible atmosphere to carry out their jobs. The police noted that they expect journalist to behave accordingly and make sure that their actions do not obstruct the way of the police.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Media Worker
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 20 February 2021, Mohamed Shaheem, media worker, was assaulted by the police and injured while covering an opposition protest while Mohamed Samah, editor of the same media outlet, was temporarily arrested by police in the nearby for the same reason in Male, the Maldives.