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Maldives 17 August 2005

Journalists targeted in crackdown on pro-democracy opposition

photo Minivan news

Reporters Without Borders voiced great concern today about a wave of press freedom violations in recent weeks in the Maldives that culminated in the arrests of several journalists and the closure of the only opposition publication after Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was detained on 12 August.

"This crackdown on pro-democracy journalists must stop at once," the press freedom organisation said. "We call on the Maldivian authorities to release the imprisoned journalists and to put an end to their tyrannical control of the press."

Ibrahim Rasheed, the managing director of the weekly Adduvas, has been imprisoned since 14 August. A journalist with the daily Aafathif who was arrested on 1 August is reportedly still being held in secret.

Jennifer Latheef, a young documentary film-maker and free expression activist, was arrested on 12 August and freed the next day. The daughter of pro-democracy journalist Mohamed Latheef, who lives in exile, she is subject to daily threats from the government. Masked police have forced their way into her home on several occasions, insulting and threatening her.

Minivan news, an opposition online newspaper that had been allowed to produce a print edition in the Maldives since 26 July, has ceased to appear. Under pressure from government thugs, the printer has refused to work with the newspaper any more. At the same time, the authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of its editor, Aminath Najeeb.

The police are also looking for Firshan Zahir, who often acts as cameraman and who filmed the opposition leader’s arrest on 12 August. Some 15 masked policemen have been taking up position outside his house at around 3 a.m. for the past several days.

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