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Police interrogation of journalists sets unhealthy precedent, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - March 1, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplores the decision by the police in the Republic of the Maldives to summon two journalists for interrogation after their newspaper carried news of a pornographic video racket operating in parts of the country.

Ahmed Hamdhoon and Ismail Naseer, who researched and wrote the story in the Dhivehi-language edition of the daily Haveeru, were summoned by police in the capital Male and asked about the sources they had used and the content of the allegedly pornographic videos. The story published on February 22 had reported that the pornographic material was being circulated in a blackmail operation that had entrapped several well-known figures.

Local police reportedly obtained a warrant on February 24 to search the offices of Haveeru. The warrant was not executed but the two journalists responsible were called to police premises to answer questions about their story.

The Maldives Journalists' Association (MJA), an IFJ affiliate, strongly protested the police summons issued to the journalists. The protection of sources is part of the provisions on media freedom in the Maldives constitution.

"We are encouraged to learn that the two journalists turned down the police demand to name sources," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The Republic of the Maldives sent out a strong positive signal by including the protection of media sources in its basic law and it is important to see that this significant legal provision is strengthened, not weakened, in practice.

"Anonymity of sources is a necessary protection for journalists seeking to bring evidence of wrongdoing into the public domain. It is well understood that anonymity cannot be used as a cover for putting out wrong or malicious information, or for the protection of anybody involved in any felony."

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