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IFJ concerned about increasing hostility against independent media

(IFJ/IFEX) - September 3, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed by a spike in hostile words and actions against journalists and media organisations in the Maldives.

According to information received from IFJ affiliate, the Maldives Journalists' Association (MJA), the offices of the privately owned TV broadcaster, VTV, were vandalised by unknown persons in the early hours of Monday, August 30. Though those responsible have not been identified, a number of verbal attacks on VTV by elected officials in the Maldives may have contributed to a climate of intolerance against the broadcaster, the MJA reported.

The MJA has drawn attention to a threat of action held out against VTV by Reeco Moosa Manik, leader of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group, on August 17. This followed what the MDP leader characterised as "repeated" broadcasts of news stories critical of his party.

On August 29, Moosa Manik launched a verbal attack on two independent TV channels, VTV and DhiTV, alleging that they were run with "ill-gotten money" and have no other purpose than the "character assassination" of political figures whose views do not coincide with their owners.

The MJA reports that Moosa Manik has repeatedly threatened journalists and media organisations at political rallies of the MDP. Earlier, on August 5, the MJA reported that Moosa Manik tried to stop a reporter for the VTV station, Zeena Zahir, as she was gathering material for a news report in the parliament building.

Another serious incident involving the president of the municipal administration in the Maldives' capital city of Male has come to attention. The official concerned, Sarangu Adam Manik, reportedly attacked a DhiTV cameraman on August 25, snatching his camera while he was on assignment inside municipal council premises.

"The IFJ supports the MJA's effort to dissuade the officials responsible for these incidents, and indeed all individuals, from persisting with such hostile actions against journalists and media organisations", IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The physical and verbal attacks on media organisations that have been recurring in the Maldives could create an environment that would be adverse to press freedom in the country."

The MJA has reminded the individuals concerned that the Maldives has set up an independent media oversight body by statute, which any individual with specific grievances regarding the conduct of any media organisation is free to approach.

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