Politics Society & Culture

Journalists need courage and paranoia in repressive Maldives regime – The New Arab

Determined to hold her government to account, exiled Maldivian journalist Zaheena Rasheed continued her work, despite death threats. A degree of paranoia is healthy for reporters, she says.
When satirical blogger Yameen Rasheed was brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment block on 23 April, it brought home a regrettable reality for fellow Maldivian journalist Zaheena Rasheed (no relation): Paranoia can be paralysing, but journalists in the Maldives “should never let their guards down”.

The island nation, known by much of the world as a holiday paradise, has been marred by political violence, radicalisation, abduction and intimidation in recent years. There are also suspicions of links between politics and violent gangs, with some politicians suspected of hiring gangsters to help further their own political ends.

Rasheed, the recent winner of Index on Censorship magazine’s Freedom of Expression Award for journalism, believes that never before has there been such serious criminality and embezzlement among her country’s political leaders.

“This level of corruption is historic,” she says. “The government has sold off more than 60 of the county’s islands and pocketed the profits,” she claims, referring in part to allegations it has sold the Faafu atoll to Saudi Arabi – something the government denies.

When it comes to media freedom, the situation is just as bad. A wave of democratisation, spearheaded by former president and human rights activist Mohamed Nasheed, allowed free expression to flourish in the country from 2005 onwards.

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