A journalist with an opposition-aligned TV channel claims he was followed by two men who threatened him with a knife for his criticism of the government.
Azmoon Ahmed, a senior correspondent at Raajje TV, said that two men stopped him on Malé’s streets and warned against criticising President Abdulla Yameen and Yazeed Mohamed, the head of the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority.
He said he was also told not to write on the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.
The men further said that if Azmoon didn’t oblige, he would end up with the same fate as Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist from Maldives Independent who was abducted and disappeared in 2014.
The incident happened around 9.30 pm at Galolhu ward of Malé. Azmoon said he was returning home on his bike and stopped when he heard someone call out, “Hey!”
“Two men came up to me, pointed a five-inch knife at me, and said, ‘Stop what you are writing about Dr. Afraasheem’s murder. This is the first and last warning. Also stop what you are saying about Yazeed and President Yameen,’” said Azmoon.
The journalist, who takes the same route on his way home every day, said that he has been followed by others for the past four days. One of them, he claimed, is a soldier posted at the military barracks at Bandaara Koshi.
Azmoon’s work with the TV channel includes multiple interviews for a documentary on the life of Afrasheem, the slain lawmaker. Aired in July, the documentary featured a witness claiming the police had bribed him to implicate Hussein Humam Ahmed, a 22-year-old who was convicted for the murder.
Last month, Azmoon also published an article alleging that the tax commissioner Yazeed and his brother were involved in tax-fraud. Yazeed has since said he will sue Axmoon and Raajje TV for defamation.
Raajje TV has filed a criminal case with the police. Chief Station Inspector Ismail Ali said that the matter is being investigated.
In the last five years, the Maldives has plummeted on the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index. The press freedom group said that country remains “very hostile for independent and opposition media” since the “coup d’état” in 2012.
Raajje TV has come under increasing pressure for their coverage. Three journalists are on trial on charges of obstructing police officers, while another is being prosecuted on charges of assaulting a policeman.
However, no one has been convicted over the near-fatal beating of former Raajje TV journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed in February 2013.
Those responsible for arson attack that destroyed the station’s office in October, too, remain unpunished.