The high court threw out Tuesday one of the two challenges filed against a civil court ruling that imposed a two-year work ban on the former employees of the now-defunct newspaper, Haveeru.
The dismissal came after the lawyer representing Haveeru’s former staff failed to turn up to a hearing. Husnu Suood, a former attorney general, had failed to inform the court that he would be out of town.
Suood did not respond to requests for a comment.
Former Haveeru employees, too, declined to comment.
The attorney general’s office had filed a separate challenge to the same ruling, arguing that the civil court was subjecting the paper’s former employees to forced labour by prohibiting them from working at any other news outlet for two-years.
The separate case is on going.
The civil court and Attorney General Mohamed Anil had previously clashed over the ruling after the latter said the order was “unlawful, invalid and unenforceable”. At the time, the court threatened to hold Anil in contempt of court.
The work ban was imposed soon after the high court, while hearing a dispute over the paper’s ownership, ruled to split the organization between its founder and three of its editorial staff who worked at the paper at the time of its founding.
In April this year, the civil court ordered Haveeru’s founder Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain to involve the new shareholders in the paper’s management and operations.
The three new shareholders – Abdulla Farooq Hassan, Ibrahim Rasheed Moosa, and Mohamed Naseem – had laid a claim to the paper based on a 1983 agreement that had established a body called ‘Haveeru News Agency’ to operate the paper. The agreement was reportedly annulled in 1985.
In lieu of involving the new shareholders, the Haveeru Media Group – owned by Zahir’s three children – closed the paper and took its website offline.
All of Haveeru’s journalists and support staff then resigned en masse to set up a new paper, Mihaaru. Around 50 of the 80 staff at Haveeru are continuing to work at Mihaaru, in defiance of the court’s orders.
Civil Court Judge Mohamed Haleem, a former press freedom campaigner, had imposed the ban, citing a need to protect the interests of the paper’s new shareholders, and insisted that the ruling be enforced within seven days and authorised the home ministry to take action be against any staff members who refused to comply.
The journalists have said that that the work-ban, if enforced, will shutter Mihaaru.
Since the closure of Haveeru, two more news outlets were forced to shut down allegedly due to political pressure.
Channel News Maldives, a news website critical of the government, took its website offline in June citing unrelenting political pressure. DhiTV, the country’s first private TV station, also went off air in early August, soon after the ruling party approved a new law criminalising defamation.
Monday roundup: economic growth and sacking of broadcasting commissioner
News in brief: Australian arrested with cocaine
Sunday roundup: terrorism, corruption and hate speech
News in brief: Addu City hit by severe flooding
Maldives suspends NGO for ‘slandering Islam’
Warehouse fire in Maldives capital claims one life
Maldives coral reefs show signs of resilience and recovery
Minivan Brief: Weaponised Islam and #MvTreeGrab
Audit exposes corruption at National Center for Information Technology
More than 400 people displaced in Malé warehouse fire
Crime1 month ago
Immigration stopped 11 ‘imposters’ with fake passports
Crime3 months ago
Charges raised over street harassment for first time in Maldives
Crime2 months ago
Ex-vice president detained in India after fleeing Maldives
Politics2 months ago
‘Terrorist group’ behind Rilwan’s abduction
Society & Culture2 months ago
Five dead in tragic accident at sea
Politics2 months ago
Maldives backs India’s ‘right to amend laws as required’
Business & Tourism3 months ago
India becomes second largest market for Maldives tourism
Crime1 month ago
Rilwan killed by Maldives group linked to al-Qaeda, presidential commission reveals