Smear tactics and a death threat as anticipation builds over Al Jazeera corruption exposé

Smear tactics and a death threat as anticipation builds over Al Jazeera corruption exposé
September 04 22:08 2016

The release of teaser trailers for Al Jazeera’s long awaited corruption expose, ‘Stealing Paradise,’ has sparked a frenzy of anticipation in the Maldives and intensified a smear campaign, including hate-filled tweets and a death threat, against the film’s producer.

“U will die soon. We have hired some gunmens to shot you,” read one Twitter post directed at the film’s producer, Will Jordan, a former editor at the Maldives Independent, formerly known as Minivan News.

Jordan has been accused by the state broadcaster, Public Service Media, of conspiring with the opposition to sabotage the Maldivian economy. One minister has claimed the film was aimed at toppling President Abdulla Yameen, whose alleged corruption and abuse of power was investigated by Al Jazeera.

The threat is being investigated by the London Metropolitan Police.

According to Al Jazeera‘s investigative unit, the documentary features secretly filmed interviews describing how “men on mopeds carried millions in cash to the president and his aides.” It comes amid renewed tension in Male, with Yameen besieged by a broad opposition coalition and a breakaway faction of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.

Maldivians meanwhile awoke on Sunday morning to a text message from Medianet, the country’s only cable service provider, advertising the broadcast of ‘Stealing Paradise’ later in the day. The message turned out to be fake.

The date of the film’s broadcast has been making local headlines since a private screening of the film was announced in late August. “Al Jazeera reschedules Maldives graft documentary broadcast date” read a headline on newspaper Mihaaru on Sunday. “Stealing Paradise postponed due to threat, case reported to London police” RaajjeMV said on Friday.

On Friday, Avas, a pro-government news outlet, quoting anonymous government officials claimed that Al Jazeera has scrapped the film. The Maldives Independent understands that a minister had informed reporters that the government has sought Saudi Arabian intervention to halt the documentary. The claim came after Yameen met with Dr Faiz Al Abideen, a special advisor to the king of Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Medianet, the cable television provider, has dismissed rumours that the government has ordered it to block Al Jazeera, but a spokesman said it will be obliged to comply if such an order is issued.

As anticipation mounts, ministers and MPs have taken to the airwaves and social media in Yameen’s defence.

Home Minister Ahmed Azleen was the latest to threaten legal action against the film’s Maldivian contributors.“If such trailers and news are based on false information, and the moment we find out that it is unlawful, we will stop them,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.

Abdulla Jihad, Yameen’s deputy, dismissed rumours that he had met with Al Jazeera reporters on a recent official visit to the United Arab Emirates.

On an appearance on Sangu TV on Saturday, Ahmed Zuhoor, a presidential affairs minister, suggested that the opposition’s aim was to use the documentary to oust Yameen.

“We are developing Maldives using funds we obtain based on the stable political environment in Maldives. When that stability is lost, it hurts the Maldivian people. So to topple the government, they [opposition] are starving the people. Maldivians are behind this,” he said.

MP Ahmed Mubeen, who appeared alongside Zuhoor, said Al Jazeera‘s reputation would suffer with the film: “They did not give us time to respond. There is nothing new in this documentary. The government will not waver because of this documentary. This report will bring Al Jazeera in to disrepute,” he said.

MP Ali Saleem, on Sangu TV on Thursday, said the opposition has bribed the international press, and accused both parties of sharing an anti-Islamic agenda. Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, on the same talk show, claimed Al Jazeera had cancelled a private screening scheduled for August 30 because of government pressure.

Government supporters are meanwhile flooding social media with pictures of Yameen’s flagship infrastructure projects with the hashtag, Healing Paradise.

The two teaser trailers released by Al Jazeera shows that former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Auditor General, Niyaz Ibrahim, former member of the Judicial Service Commission, Aishath Velezinee and the Maldives Independent‘s Editor, Zaheena Rasheed were interviewed for the film.