Journalists protest over police brutality

Journalists and reporters protested over police brutality towards the media on February 21, 2021 | Photo: Nishan Ali

Male’, Maldives — The journalists and reporters in the island nation has taken to the streets to protest over the obstructive actions and physical harm that is caused by the Maldives Police Service officers to them.

The protest comes after several journalists were injured by the actions of the police while they were covering news.

On Friday, a reporter of the Channel 13 was injured due to the police while they were attempting to cover a protest that was held by the opposition coalition against the government. The reporter had to later receive treatment from the hospital for the injuries they had sustained. 

In addition to this, two other reporters of the same channel were forcefully taken out of a cafe’ in Male’ city and were later arrested by the Police. Although the reason for this action was not publicized, local media informs that the two reporters were later released by the Police.

The unjustified behavior towards the journalists in Maldives has resulted in several reporters and journalists from different outlets to protest in front of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) for the obstructive actions and physical harm Police is causing to the journalist without a valid reason.

The main point voiced out during the protest was regarding police brutality and the obstruction of free media in the country. Along with this, the protesting journalists and reporters also raised concerned over the lack of action and justice for such actions caused by the Police.

Although a protest was held in the greater Male’ area, all the protestors were attentive on adhering to the protective measures given by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). They protested using posters and placards and called on the government to stop the harassment caused to the reporters of Channel 13. Along with this, the protestors also called on the government to not treat the journalists and reporters as how Raajje TV was previously treated.

Earlier in 2017, Raajje TV, the only channel to broadcast opposition voices back then was fined twice in March and April for transmitting an opposition speech.

The channel was fined under the new defamation law which was passed in 2016. This was denounced by the public following a protest against the law in April 2016. During the protest, 18 journalists were arrested.

After the new defamation law was passed, independent TV and radio station DhiTV announced that they will be closed down as they do not believe that they could run sustainably under the conditions placed by the government.

Along with this, several other independent voices also fall out in Maldives in 2016 with the arrival of the new defamation law. This includes of the permanent closure f Haveeru newspaper which was caused by the controversial court ruling, access of to the AdduLive regional new website being blocked, closing down of popular website, Channel News Maldives, due to the pressure from the government after the website exposed the misuse of state resources by the then President, Abdullah Yameen’s wife.

While the protestors later met with the President of the Maldives Media Council, Shahubaan Fahumy and Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Mariyam Waheeda to share their concerns over the injustices, both authorities  pledged to do more to protect journalists and reporters and fight for the rights of the media. In addition to this, the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) also called on to investigate the matter.