A four-member TV crew from German public broadcaster ARD has been deported for filming in several locations across the Maldives without a permit.
Sanjay Kumar, a producer at ARD’s South Asia bureau, told The Maldives Independent yesterday that the police picked up the crew from the island of Himandhoo in Alif Alif atoll around 11:00am and brought them to the police headquarters in Malé.
“Then we were handed over to the immigration department. We stayed there for more than six hours,” Kumar said.
The crew included three Indians and one German national. All four were sent back to India last night. The immigration department said in a statement that filming on a tourist visa was against the law and visa regulations.
The TV crew was shooting in several islands in the Maldives for stories on guesthouse tourism, the political situation, and religious extremism.
Kumar said: “We have never been faced with this kind of hostility. I have been to Afghanistan just last week and this is my second time in the Maldives. We came here to promote tourism. I do not believe that the current government is human.”
Expressing his displeasure on social media, Kumar later tweeted: “Paranoia rules the paradise. Maldives is not a democracy but a mean dictatorship.”
He also called the government “repressive” and a “Taliban regime in different garb.”
A police media official told The Maldives Independent that the TV crew was detained for shooting without a permit.
“We picked them up and handed them over to immigration. A permit is required to shoot documentaries. The crew had been shooting places that were not on their permit and were also behaving in a way that affects national interest,” the spokesperson said.
Thayyib Shaheem, the local agent for the TV crew, said the National Centre for the Arts had granted a permit for filming, but had not included all the places the journalists had requested.
“The NCA had only included half of the places we had requested to shoot in the permit,” he said.
The NCA permit only listed the market and harbour areas, Thayyib explained, but the crew had requested permission to film in islands and private residences to depict the daily life of Maldivians.