The Maldives has told foreigners to respect its laws after two journalists were arrested and face deportation for working in the country on a tourist visa.
Indian citizen Money Sharma and British citizen Atish Ravji Patel work for global news agency Agence France-Presse and were in the Maldives to cover the state of emergency, which was declared Monday by President Abdulla Yameen.
The pair were picked up Friday.
Maldives police and immigration later issued statements about the arrests.
“We urge all foreign nationals to adhere to immigration guidelines and acquire the relevant visa that corresponds to the purpose of their visit. We note that several foreign journalists are currently working in the Maldives and welcome all those who wish to do so in the future,” said police.
Immigration repeated the request and added: “We would like to note that although they have been asked to leave the Maldives, no other legal steps shall be taken against them.”
All foreign nationals intending to work in the country should obtain either a business or work visa and “this applies to journalists as well,” it said.
There is no visa category for the press and most foreign journalists on assignment in the Maldives enter on 30-day tourist visas.
The business visa application form is a two-page document. Immigration says foreign media are also required to submit Vetting Form IM32. The government set new rules requiring background checks over a documentary about alleged corruption and abuse of power by Yameen.
IM32 requires the following: a bank statement less than six months old, a medical report less than three months old and a police report less than a year old. It also asks applicants to list previous employment, travel history for the last two years, educational qualifications and details of friends or family in the Maldives.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs was Friday asked about the arrests.
“We have asked our Embassy to get in touch with the local authorities to ascertain more details of the case,” said a spokesman.
The Maldives is ranked 117 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index, down from 112 the previous year.