New York, April 11, 2023–Maldives authorities must swiftly and impartially investigate the recent threats of violence and death sent to journalists Ahmed Naaif and Ahmed Zahir and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
Beginning on April 7, four unidentified numbers messaged threats to Naaif following the publication of an article by Naaif the day before, according to a statement by the Maldives Journalists Association, screenshots of the messages reviewed by CPJ, and a person familiar with the threats, who spoke to CPJ by phone on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal.
Two of those numbers also messaged threats to Zahir, and one of them called him.
The journalists began receiving the threats after Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, a member of the Maldives parliament who leads the Maldives Development Alliance minor party and whose business was the focus of the article, called Zahir, the managing editor of the privately owned website Dhauru, on April 7 and ordered him to remove the article, stating that it was the “final warning,” according to those sources.
Naaif, a senior reporter for Dhauru and secretary-general of the Maldives Journalists Association, received one message reviewed by CPJ that ordered him to leave the country within five days or “we will make you suffer and finish you.”
“The Maldives press remains haunted by the history of deadly violence against journalists in the country. Authorities must take the threats against journalists Ahmed Naaif and Ahmed Zahir seriously, hold the perpetrators accountable, and ensure their safety,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “In the run-up to the country’s September 2023 presidential election, journalists must have the freedom to safely and independently report on political matters of public interest.”
Naaif’s article analyzed the failure of Sun Travels and Tours Private Limited, a company owned by Mohamed, to pay $24 million to Hilton International following an arbitration ruling about a contract dispute. Mohamed’s party recently formed a coalition with the current Maldives government led by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ahead of the country’s national election in September 2023.
On April 7, Naaif filed a complaint with the Maldives police, but police have made no arrests as of April 11, according to the person who spoke to CPJ.
Maldives Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed told CPJ via messaging app that the investigation was ongoing. When reached by phone, Ahmed Siyam Mohamed declined to comment, saying he was out of the country.
Maldivian blogger and reporter Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla and blogger and satirist Yameen Rasheed received death threats prior to their killings in 2014 and 2017, respectively.
Editor’s note: The second paragraph of this report has been updated to correct the description of how the threats were sent to Naaif. The fourth paragraph has been changed to reflect the focus of Naaif’s article.