The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern over recent threats of violence and death sent to journalists Ahmed Naaif and Ahmed Zahir in the Maldives. The Maldives Journalists Association has reported that four unidentified numbers messaged threats to Naaif on April 7, after the publication of an article the day before. Two of these numbers also messaged threats to Zahir, and one of them called him. The journalists began receiving the threats after Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, a member of the Maldives parliament, who leads the Maldives Development Alliance minor party and whose business was the focus of the article, called Zahir and ordered him to remove the article.
Naaif, a senior reporter for Dhauru and secretary-general of the Maldives Journalists Association, received one message that ordered him to leave the country within five days or “we will make you suffer and finish you.” The CPJ has called on the Maldives authorities to swiftly and impartially investigate the threats and ensure the safety of the journalists.
Naaif’s article analyzed the failure of Sun Travels and Tours Private Limited, a company owned by Mohamed, to pay $24 million to Hilton International following an arbitration ruling about a contract dispute. Mohamed’s party recently formed a coalition with the current Maldives government led by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ahead of the country’s national election in September 2023.
On April 7, Naaif filed a complaint with the Maldives police, but as of April 11, no arrests have been made. The CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, Beh Lih Yi, has emphasized the need for authorities to take the threats seriously and hold the perpetrators accountable, particularly as the Maldives approaches its presidential election in September 2023. “Journalists must have the freedom to safely and independently report on political matters of public interest,” Yi said. The Maldives press has a history of deadly violence against journalists, and it is crucial that the authorities take appropriate action to prevent any further harm.