President Solih Wins Maldives Primary Amidst Political Tensions
Héloïse Regnault de Montgon
East & South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On February 6, 2023, journalists Hassan Shaheed and Ahmed Misbaah were assaulted by the police while reporting on a protest against the sentencing of former president Abdulla Yameen. The protest took place ahead of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s speech, a few days after he won a tense primary ahead of the country’s presidential elections in September 2023.
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the two journalists were “pressed down, pepper-sprayed and struck by police shields” while reporting on the protest led by supporters of Yameen, who was condemned to 11 years in prison in December 2022 on money laundering charges. Shaheed was taken to Sri Lanka for the treatment of his injuries.
The Maldivian Broadcasting Commission (MBC) issued a statement condemning the aggression of the police towards journalists, and “urged the authorities to ensure the safety and protection of journalists.” This is not the first time such an incident was reported. In May 2022, the IFJ also reported that journalists were harassed by the police while reporting on a protest led by supporters of Yameen.
The assault of journalists by the police is a violation of the right to freedom of expression as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Maldives ratified in 2006. Article 19(2) of the ICCPR states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Since the two journalists were exercising their right to seek information through their reporting of a protest, their assault by the police constitutes a violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR. Having ratified the ICCPR, the Maldives are obligated to guarantee this right to its citizens.
The next presidential election in the Maldives will take place in September 2023. As more political demonstrations will likely take place, it is important that the Maldivian government investigate allegations of misconduct and assault against protesters.
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