Nasheed, known as Colonel, a columnist and political activist with the opposition publication Minivan Daily, and Saeed, also known as Fahala, a longtime journalist who is also affiliated with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were summoned by police for questioning on October 13, 2005, and were kept in detention.
The state-run media reported on September 20 that several staff members of Minivan Daily, including Colonel and Fahala, were under investigation for writing critical articles about the government. Colonel was also accused of taking part in a pro-democracy rally in August 2005. Police accused Fahala of possessing a large quantity of drugs at the time of his questioning at the police station, the online version of Minivan Daily reported. Staffers at the paper accused the police of planting the drugs on Fahala.
The two journalists have been transferred from the police station to the Dhoonidhoo detention center.
A speech by Colonel titled “(President) Gayoom will do anything to stay in power” was reported in Minivan Daily, and the paper cited that as the likely motivation for his arrest.
The Maldives has a tightly restricted media, with little independent journalism. President Maumoon Gayoom has come under pressure in recent years to make democratic reforms and open up the press environment. After applying for more than a year, Minivan Daily was finally granted a license and allowed to start publishing in July 2005, a significant step. The paper is affiliated with the opposition MDP.
Minivan Daily said that the government stepped up its case against the paper after the August arrest of MDP activist Mohamed Nasheed, known as Anni. The paper investigated his arrest on terrorism charges after he made a critical speech against the president in July and published documents calling into question the legitimacy of the state’s case against him.
The paper said that the journalists are innocent and that other journalists from the paper are now at risk of arrest. Minivan Daily reported that if the journalists are prosecuted, the newspaper’s license will be revoked.