RSF backs crowdfunding by family of murdered blogger

RSF backs crowdfunding by family of murdered blogger
June 04 16:03 2017

The France-based Reporters Without Borders has declared support for a crowdfunding campaign launched by the family and friends of murdered liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed.

The fundraising drive was launched last month with the goal of raising £40,000 to help finance advocacy efforts. The family has repeatedly called for an independent investigation with foreign involvement. 

Reaffirming support for Yameen’s family and friends, Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said: “Maldives continues to suffer from the curse of impunity, as evidenced by [Maldives Independent journalist] Ahmed Rilwan’s disappearance, and we must not rely on the Maldivian police.”

He called on free speech defenders to “join in this solidarity gesture and contribute to the quest for justice for Yameen Rasheed.”

“His brutal murder must not be in vain. This crowdfunding project is the best way to honour the memory of a courageous blogger and advocate of freedoms and tolerance.”

The crowdfunding closes Monday evening. As of press time, £11,292 has been raised from 98 donors.

Superintendent Ahmed Shifan, the police spokesman, declined to provide an update on the investigation. He said “comprehensive information” will be revealed at the earliest possible date.

The last update on the case came on May 15 when the police said two men whose photos were released to the public were among seven suspects in custody in connection with the murder.

The pair was caught on security camera footage “entering and exiting the scene of the crime after brutally stabbing Mr Yameen Rasheed,” the police said then, but have yet to seek charges.

The 29-year-old satirist and IT professional was found with 35 stab wounds in the stairwell of his apartment building in the early hours of April 23.

Yameen’s family questions the ability of the police to conduct an impartial and credible investigation due to the failure to investigate numerous death threats or arrest suspects in Rilwan’s abduction and the near-fatal attack on blogger Hilath Rasheed.

“We feel their inaction and negligence in the face of violent attacks and death threats have fuelled a culture of impunity that allows murderers to roam free,” the family said.

“We acknowledge the Maldives Police Service’s ongoing investigation, and welcome any and all credible progress made on the case. However, given the history of the police’s actions in similar investigations and their negligence in relation to the many death threats against Yameen which he reported, we feel we must continue to call upon the authorities to ensure an independent investigation into his murder.”

Like Yameen, both Rilwan and Hilath were prominent liberal voices against radicalisation and extremism.

In June 2012, three men assaulted Hilath, a former editor of newspaper Haveeru, outside his door and slashed his throat. He narrowly survived the murder attempt.

No arrests were made despite the police claiming to have access to CCTV footage near Hilath’s home in the capital.

Rilwan’s family meanwhile sued the police in February for refusing to disclose information about the abduction after more than 900 days.

After initially denying any link between Rilwan’s disappearance in August 2014 and a reported abduction outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé, the police said in April last year that he was taken into a car that belonged to a notorious gangster.

Yameen’s family have also sued the police over the failure to protect him despite numerous death threats reported since 2014. Earlier this month, the family petitioned the UN human rights chief to press the Maldivian authorities to allow an independent investigation led by an international group.

The Maldives is now ranked 117 out of 180 countries in RSF’s annual press freedom index, down from 112 the previous year.

Based on developments during the past year, RSF said the government continues to “persecute the independent media” and that many journalists have been the target of death threats from political parties, criminal gangs and religious extremists.

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