The police have raided the Maldives Independent office in Malé with a court warrant over an alleged coup plot, hours after an explosive Al Jazeera corruption exposé was released on YouTube.
The highly-anticipated documentary Stealing Paradise features an interview with Zaheena Rasheed, the editor of this publication, along with leading figures from the opposition and former members of watchdog bodies.
The police, consisting of personnel from the specialist operations and forensics departments, entered our building around 3.45 pm.
A search warrant they presented alleged a conspiracy “to overthrow the elected government, getting external help to overthrow the elected government, trying to create hatred between the public and the state institutions, and planning to create discord and unrest in Malé.”
The warrant stated that the allegations were based on an intelligence report, and authorised police to search Henveiru Hulhugali for 12 hours.
The building also houses a law firm, a college, a human rights NGO, and a travel agency.
Around six policemen, including those from the SO and forensics, entered the Maldives Independent office around 4.10 pm. They rummaged through the drawers and searched the rooms, including the bathroom. They also took photographs of the office space before confiscating a dysfunctional CCTV recording device.
The police refused to say what they were looking for. The Maldives Independent was later assured that a written statement would be provided saying that no incriminating evidence was found.
Shahinda Ismail, whose Maldives Democracy Network shares the floor with the offices of MI, called the incident an intimidation tactic by the government.
“Compared to the seriousness of the allegations, the search was very superficial and was over within minutes. It seems to me that it was directed at the people, not the place they shared,” she said, referring to the editor of Maldives Independent, who is currently out of the country.
Over last week, this publication has been repeatedly targeted by certain sections of the local media “for its involvement” in the making of the documentary. Will Jordan, the Al Jazeera producer, was previously the editor of Minivan News in 2007 before it was rebranded to Maldives Independent in 2015.