New York, July 27, 2017--Police in the Maldives should cease detaining journalists covering events of significant public interest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police yesterday briefly detained seven journalists from the private television channels Sangu TV and Raajje TV as they covered an opposition party protest, according to police and media reports.
Police in the capital Malé detained Sangu TV's Adam Janah, Ahmed Riffath, Mohamed Shanoon, and Abdullah Yameen and Raajje TV senior journalists Mohamed Wisam, Murshid Abdul-Hakeem, and Raajje TV video journalist Ahmed Mamdhooh for more than two hours last night as they attempted to cover a protest outside the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party's meeting hall to mark the country's independence day, the Maldives Independent reported. The journalists were accused of obstructing police completing their duties, the newspaper reported.
Hussein Fiyaz Moosa, chief operations officer at Raajje TV, told the Maldives Independent that police kicked Abdul-Hakeem. He told CPJ that police damaged the reporters' video equipment.
"Maldives police detained seven Sangu TV and Raajje TV journalists on the accusation they were obstructing police doing their jobs, when in reality it was the police who obstructed the journalists doing their jobs," CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said from Washington, D.C. "Authorities in the Maldives should let journalists report the news without hindrance or fear of attack."
Maldives police superintendent and spokesperson Ahmed Shifan told CPJ that the journalists did not "behave in a professional manner."
"We didn't arrest any journalists," Shifan told CPJ. "We detained some protestors while they were on the run and unfortunately some journalists were [among] them."
Yameen is the only journalist of the group whom police called in for questioning on obstruction charges, Shifan said, though Yameen has not yet been charged with a crime. The other journalists will not face any criminal charges, Shifan said, adding that the police department will send their reports to the Maldives Media Council, which he called the "parent and regulating body of the media." The council is a government-regulated body authorized to investigate complaints and impose fines for journalists and media outlets, according to the Maldives Independent.
Shifan told CPJ that the police department had started an internal inquiry into the treatment of journalists at the rally yesterday.