“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,” the CPJ said.
The broadcasting regulator has slapped an MVR1 million (US$64,850) fine on the Raajje TV for airing a speech at an opposition rally in October that was deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen.
Delivering a verdict on Tuesday, Judge Ahmed Shakeel said the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient
The hefty fines were the first punitive action taken under the controversial 2016 defamation law. Failure to pay the fines within 30 days could result in the closure of the station and a jail term of up to six months for the former Raajje TV journalist.
The broadcasting regulator has slapped an MVR200,000 (US$13,000) fine on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV and an MVR50,000 (US$3,200) fine on a journalist in the first punitive action taken under the controversial 2016 defamation law.
Following the guilty verdicts and US$1,800 fines handed to Raajje TV journalists Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali Nasir last month, Adam Zareer becomes only the third journalist to be convicted in the Maldives in more than a decade.
The Saudi Arabian embassy in Malé has stirred controversy after handing out envelopes with MVR500 (US$32) in cash to journalists who were invited to cover an event on Sunday.
Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, chief operating officer of the opposition-aligned station, is accused of hitting Corporal Mohamed Shaheen while he was being arrested for refusing to leave the sports complex area of Malé where the military’s bomb disposal experts were defusing an improvised explosive device.
Raajje TV journalist Hussain Fiyaz Moosa said the long gap had led him to believe that the charges were dropped.
Mohamed Wisam and Leevaan Ali Nasir were fined MVR28,800 (US$1,868) each on charges of obstructing police officers
“Raajje TV journalists Mohamed Wisam, Leevan Ali Naseer and Adam Zareer are guilty of nothing more than covering events of significant public interest,” the CPJ said.
Adam Zareer was told the judge overseeing his case had called in sick and postponed the verdict to February 27 when he turned up at the criminal court at 2pm.
Three Raajje TV journalists, on trial for obstructing police officers, share their thoughts on journalism and describe why they continue to report despite the risk of jail.
The criminal court found two journalists from the opposition-aligned Raajje TV guilty today on controversial charges of obstructing police duty. However, in an unusual move, the sentencing has been postponed to January 24.
MBC said it would not investigate TVM for defaming Nasheed and Gayoom in a decision that stands in start contrast to action it has previously taken against opposition aligned station, Raajje TV.
A verdict will be delivered on December 19, the court said. Prosecutors reiterated that Wisam and Leevan had tackled a police officer to prevent him from making an arrest.
As the world marks the international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, human rights groups have condemned the gap between the Maldives’ international advocacy on press freedom and its practices at home.