Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, the opposition-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), has alleged that two senior government officials attempted to assault him on Monday.
The officials were Abdul Shukoor Abdulla, executive coordinator at the youth ministry, and Ahmed Mamdhooh, deputy managing director of the state-owned Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC). The pair deny the allegations.
Fiyaz told The Maldives Independent that the incident occurred while he was trying to take photos at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) after the first lady and other victims of a blast on the president’s speedboat were brought to the hospital.
Fiyaz said police officers at the government-operated hospital insisted that he could not take photos and told him that he could be arrested.
But he continued to take pictures from his phone as the policemen could not explain why it was not allowed, he said. One of the officers then asked two policemen to stay in front of Fiyaz and obstruct his view.
“A stretcher had been taken out from the scan room. I lifted my arm when the two government officials tried to attack me and take my phone away,” Fiyaz said.
“However, luckily, because the of the police was standing in front of me they were unable to reach me. But if they did, I don’t know what the extent of my injuries could have been.”
Speaking to The Maldives Independent, Shukoor said the media was not allowed inside the hospital at the time and that the pair only advised Fiyaz to leave. “When he started obstructing police duty we went there and nicely told him he was obstructing police duty and to calm down,” he said.
“Fiyaz is saying that we attacked him, but any sane person would know that could not have happened because police officers were there as well.”
Shukoor claimed that Fiyaz routinely obstructs police duties and that he was not wearing a press pass at the time. He also accused the veteran journalist of speaking rudely and making false allegations to gain “attention and popularity.”
Fiyaz meanwhile said he did not believe filing complaints with any state institution would result in a fair investigation.
The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) has been inactive for more than a year due to disputes over the election of members to its executive committee.
“This is not the first time the press has been attacked. Raajje TV’s journalists have also been attacked countless times. Our station was also torched and the suspects of the case are currently holding different positions within the government. So I have ruled out the option of such perpetrators being punished,” Fiyaz said.
In February 2013, Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed was nearly beaten to death, while the station’s offices and equipment were destroyed in an arson attack in October that year.
The Maldives has plummeted on the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index during the past four years. In 2014, numerous death threats were sent to journalists, journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared, and a machete was buried at the door of the The Maldives Independent office.
While police assured thorough investigations in each case, no charges have been raised against any suspects.
Rilwan is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment in Hulhumalé. On August 7 this year, police officers pepper sprayed Rilwan’s family at a memorial walk held to mark one year after his disappearance.
In March, a group led Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali Shahid ‘Steps Ayya’ tore down paintings and posters of former President Mohamed Nasheed put up at the national art gallery as a form of protest against the exclusion of the former president at a student art exhibition.
The group tore down the paintings and ripped up the posters as police oficers watched impassively. A police officer was also photographed ripping a poster.
Fiyaz meanwhile called upon the government to ensure safety for journalists.
“On behalf of Raajje TV and myself, I call upon the government to investigate and stop these attacks and obstructions to press freedom and Maldivian journalists,” he said.