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Maldives Media Freedom Under Threat from President Nasheed.

Male', Maldives

The historical civic protest in the Maldives on December 23rd, 2011 saw an escalation of President Nasheed's intimidatory tactics against free media in the country.

Under Nasheed's direct order as Commander in Chief of the Maldives Military, the Military had sent a written warning to all free media, warning against the airing of anti-government demonstrations. The military warning was received by all media channels and print media just hours prior to the mass gathering at Victory Square to protest against President Nasheed and his corrupt Government.

A few days prior to the protest, Maldives Police arrested Ali Ahsan, web designer and online news editor, for creating a website which provided updated news on the upcoming Civic Protest.

In further actions against free media, President Nasheed shutdown Maldives youth website on the day of the Civic Protest, in a move to stifle dissenting voices against his corrupt government. The website,a popular site amongst Maldivian youth, brings up to date news and discussion fora on youth related issues. It came to prominence in the up to date with live reporting on the Youth demonstrations against the Nasheed regime in May 2011.

In a similar move, the main Antenna cable for transmissions by Radio Atoll, a popular youth radio station, was cut at dawn on December 23rd, suspending transmissions to Male' and surrounding regions.

President Nasheed's regime has been marked by intimidation and threats against news media, with Maldives Police active in these actions. Last year, during a civic unrest as Nasheed tried to arrest ex-President Gayoom, Maldives Police was deployed to private TV channels, with orders to close down transmissions. However, acting upon legal advice, the stations were able to prevent Police action to stop their transmissions.

Owners of free media have also been harassed by President Nasheed. In an action to curb political programs on the highly popular DhiTV channel which airs all views on political issues, Nasheed's Presidential Commission on Corruption, summoned DhiTV owner Champa Mohamed Moosa claiming an investigation into corruption and financial mismanagement by the previous government.

Press personnel at civic protests against Nasheed have been attacked and mishandled by Maldives Police. This year's May youth protests against Nasheed and his corrupt government were maked by heavy handed police actions against media persons reporting from the site. Several media personnel were injured by Maldives Police during the course of the protest and other similar protests in 2011.

Although Nasheed's police has been active in implementing his anti-press orders, this is the first time that the military have taken intimidatory action against the press. Famous lawyer and leader of Gaumee Party, Dr. Hassan Saeed, has said that the Military acted out of the bounds of the law in sending the warning notice to media last week. Dr. Saeed said that his party was prepared to take legal action against the military for violating the constitution and laws of the Maldives, stating that these actions by the military were precursors to military intervention in the democratic governance of the country.

The Maldives Military is led by Chief of Staff Lt. General Moosa Jaleel, a Nasheed appointee and previously respected hero of November 3, 1988 coup, the coup in which Nasheed's uncle Sikka Ahmed Ismail Maniku (Bodu Sikka) tried to topple President Gayoom with help from the Sri Lankan terrorist group LTTE.

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