Malé – The Maldivian Government is on the hunt for several journalists who have since fled the country after accusing them of supplying defamatory information that had resulted in an Al Jazeera documentary and a Guyana Guardian article which linked the country’s embattled President Abdulla Yameen to money laundering activities.
Two senior bank employees were also taken into custody for questioning last week under suspicion of providing ‘defamatory’ information to the Guyana Guardian, while the offices of the Maldivian Independent Newspaper and a NGO were raided a few weeks ago, forcing its Editor to flee to Sri Lanka. (see that story HERE)
Several fugitive opposition party members’ passports were also cancelled, as the government continues to link them to much of the information that was published by the Al Jazeera network and the Guyana Guardian respectively.
The Al Jazeera documentary in particular has had a great impact on the credibility of the government, in as much that the state has expressed deep anger upon its airing.
A statement released by the Maldives broadcasting commission had claimed it had received several complaints about the Al Jazeera documentary, and to a lesser extent, the Guyana Guardian article, while warning that those who broadcast or published the allegations were liable for defamation and imprisonment.
The Maldivian Government had claimed that Al Jazeera had not given it enough time to respond to the allegations while alleging in an email that the Guyana Guardian similarly did not give the State an opportunity to respond at all before publishing the article.
However, this publication has presented damning evidence that it did dispatch an email query to the Maldivian government at least twenty hours before the article was published. To date, no one had responded.
Citing this development, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, Mr. David Kaye has described the crackdown and arrest of journalists by the state, as a “direct attack on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the Maldives”.
Over the past few weeks cyber attacks against the Guyana Guardian website have intensified with particular emphasis on the link that carried the Maldivian money laundering article.
In that article (See here) the Guyana Guardian had reported that an Asian bank in the Maldives had refused to accept a US$10 million transfer from another bank in India after the money was flagged by a foreign intelligence oversight body as potentially laundered funds.
The suspected laundered money is said to have belong to a Guyanese investor with close ties to the Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, and who had also worked closely with the previous government of Guyana.
Since the publication of that article, Maldivian government intelligence officials have been pestering the Guyana Guardian in various forms to release the source of the information, but the publication has repeatedly refused do so.
Though journalists are often arrested under the country’s terrorism laws for reporting unfavourably about the government, the country has since passed new special laws making defamation a criminal as well as a civil offence; – meaning anyone can be jailed upon being found guilty.