The criminal court has ordered the release of two Raajje TV journalists arrested during an opposition mass protest on March 16.
Mohamed Wisam and Amir Saleem were accused of making a video showing masked men in police uniforms threatening to join the anti-government demonstration. They were later remanded for 10 days.
At the second remand hearing Tuesday afternoon, defence lawyers questioned the lack of evidence apart from a secret intelligence report when police sought to keep them in custody for five more days.
Their arrests came after a ruling party lawmaker claimed Raajje TV had uploaded the video to YouTube, allegations the private broadcaster condemned as “false and baseless” while Reporters Without Borders said the criminal court extended their detention “without any concrete evidence being produced to support a judicial investigation.
Along with a former Raajje TV reporter, Wisam, a senior video journalist, was handed a fine of US$1,868 for obstruction of police duty last year. The prosecutions prompted the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists to accuse the Maldivian authorities of singling out the station for harassment.
The broadcasting regulator has also taken action against Raajje TV under the controversial 2016 anti-defamation law, including imposing a fine of MVR1 million (US$64,850) for airing a speech that was deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen.
Only one suspect was meanwhile charged over the torching of the Raajje TV studios in October 2013 after 18 young men were arrested. The trial resumed in August last year after being stalled for nearly 11 months with multiple cancellations.
The Maldives is now ranked 117 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index, down from 112 the previous year.
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Source URL: Maldives Times