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Police block journalists’ silent protest

Specialist Operations police officers blocked a protest march staged by journalists against a defamation bill currently before parliament. The journalists were told they would not be allowed to protest in the streets of Malé while carrying banners and placards.



Riot police officers blocked a silent protest staged by journalists Tuesday night against a controversial defamation bill currently before parliament.

Wearing T-shirts with the slogan, ‘In defence of 27,’ referring to the article of the constitution that guarantees freedom of expression, a group of about 20 journalists from several media outlets gathered near the parliament building in Malé around 8:30pm.

The journalists had planned to demonstrate as close as possible to the Islamic centre piazza where the first couple was hosting an official reception on the occasion of Independence Day. But the whole surrounding area was cordoned off.

The journalists tried to march the other way on Sosun Magu but were quickly blocked by Specialist Operations police officers.

The SO officers first told the journalists to stay on the pavement but then stopped the march and held them in a narrow alley.

The journalists also rolled up their banners when the police officers told them they will not be allowed to march in the streets of Malé while carrying banners.

“Kill defamation bill,” “Give space for free media,” “Safeguard the press,” “Stop intimidating journalists,” read some of the banners.

However, the police did not allow the silent protest to go ahead and repeatedly demanded that the journalists give up the attempt.

Despite the constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly without prior permission from the state, a protest ban in the streets of the capital has been in force since November.

The journalists said the police actions demonstrated the extent of freedom for Maldivian citizens on Independence Day.