Two journalists (a British national and an Indian national) employed by French news agency Agence France-Presse were on Friday arrested in Maldives amid the ongoing crisis in the country. Money Sharma from Amritsar and Atish Ravji Patel from London, who are both AFP employees, have been arrested under Maldivian SoE decree for ‘national security purposes’, ANI reported.
Press Statement: PMC/2018/06
Two journalists (a British national and an Indian national) have been handed over to @ImmigrationMV to take action against them for working in Maldives against Maldives Immigration Act and Regulations. pic.twitter.com/K3aVMXKrny
— Maldives Police (@PoliceMv) February 9, 2018
Reacting to the report of the arrest of Indian journalists, Ali Azhar, Member of Parliament, said, “We don’t have freedom of press anymore. Last night one of the leading TV stations was closed. We call for their immediate release and restoration of democracy and rule of law.”
India has asked its Embassy in Maldives to ascertain the details pertaining to the detention of an Indian national, working as a journalist there. “We have received information about an Indian national, Shri Money Sharma, working as a journalist, who has been detained by the Maldivian authorities. We have asked our Embassy to get in touch with the local authorities to ascertain more details of the case,” External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Meanwhile, RaajjeTV was forced to shut after the Maldives military threatened the country’s media. According to Maldives Indiependent, the station discontinued its live broadcast, citing a warning from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) it would close down news outlets that were “threatening national security.”
“As the most watched TV station in the Maldives, we regret that the temporary suspension of our regular broadcast would deprive the public their right to information – a right that is vital for the public, especially at this critical time.”
“These are protected rights that cannot be suppressed even during a state of emergency, as clearly stipulated in article 255 (b) of the constitution,” Raajje TV said in an official statement.
Emergency was declared in Maldives by President Abdulla Yameen on Monday after the Supreme Court ordered release of opposition leaders. Yameen had called a 15-day state of emergency, deepening a political crisis.
Maldives’ Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed, were arrested hours after Yameen declared a state of emergency. Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was also arrested.
International community has asked the Yameen government to restore the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called the declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives and the resulting suspension of constitutional guarantees an “all-out assault on democracy.”
India has strongly reacted to the political turmoil in Maldives saying it was “disturbed” on the declaration of an emergency by the government there and described as a matter of “concern” the arrests of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have expressed concern about the political situation in Maldives over a phone call.