CPJ condemns prosecutor general over case against Raajje TV journalist

CPJ condemns prosecutor general over case against Raajje TV journalist
April 20 17:15 2017

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham’s decision to challenge the acquittal of Raajje TV journalist Mohamed Wisam, who was cleared of obstruction charges last month.

The prosecutor general lodged an appeal with the high court on April 5.

Calling on Bisham to drop the case, CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler said: “The prosecutor general’s insistence on continuing this baseless case against Mohamed Wisam and Raajje TV is clearly intended to intimidate all journalists in the Maldives.

“Wisam was merely doing his job as a journalist, and should not be prosecuted.”

The 22-year-old was acquitted on March 28, after the criminal court ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that he had scaled barricades during an anti-government protest in March 2015 and obstructed police officers.

Raajje TV called the appeal decision was “embarrassing” and “unbelievable”.

Wisam and other Raajje TV journalists have faced multiple charges in recent months.

In January, Wisam and Leevaan Ali Nasir were found guilty of a separate obstruction charge and fined MVR28,800 (US$1,868) each. In February, Raajje TV cameraman Adam Zareer was convicted, also on charges of obstructing police at the March 2015 protest, and fined 3,000 rufiya (US$195),

Raajje TV’s chief operating officer, Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, is also on trial on a charge of assaulting a police officer. He faces a jail term of more than a month if found guilty.

The station has also come under fire for alleged defamation.

In March, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission slapped an MVR200,000 (US$13,000) fine on the station in the first punitive action taken under the controversial 2016 defamation law. A separate fine of MVR1million (US$64,850) was imposed earlier this month for broadcasting a speech criticising President Abdulla Yameen.

The Maldives is now ranked 112th on the France-based Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index, which said the country remains “very hostile for independent and opposition media”.

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