A cameraman from the opposition-aligned Raajje TV has been found guilty of obstructing police duty and handed a fine of MVR3,000 (US$195).
Delivering the verdict Monday afternoon, Judge Adam Arif said the defence failed to challenge the eyewitness testimony of two police officers, which he deemed sufficient to prove guilt.
Adam Zareer was arrested during the station’s coverage of an opposition protest in March 2015. The 29-year-old maintained his innocence during the trial, stressing that he had an accredited press pass when he was filming the protest.
The state prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of four months and 24 days, but the judge opted for the fine as Zareer has no prior criminal record.
Zareer’s lawyer Abdulla Haseen said he will appeal the verdict at the high court as soon as possible.
Raajje TV journalists Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali Nasir were also found guilty of obstructing police and handed a fine of US$1,868 each last month. The pair became the first journalists to be convicted in more than a decade.
Last month, New York-based press freedom group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, urged the Maldivian authorities to drop the charges against the journalists, accusing the government of singling out the station for harassment.
The prosecution of the four journalists also stands in stark contrast to the lack of justice for crimes committed against the press, including the abduction of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan, the arson attack on Raajje TV, the near-fatal beating of the station’s former news head, Asward Ibrahim Waheed, and the mass death threats sent via text messages to journalists.
The withdrawal of charges against 24 journalists arrested since President Abdulla Yameen assumed power in November 2013 was among nine demands outlined in a petition submitted to the authorities by some 183 Maldivian journalists last April.
The Maldives is now ranked 112th on the France-based Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index, which said the country remains “very hostile for independent and opposition media”.
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Source URL: Maldives Independent