Sentencing for the two journalists of Raajje TV who were found guilty on controversial charges of obstructing police duty has been scheduled for 24th January.
The Criminal Court has scheduled the announcement of verdict on Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali Nasir at 1300hrs, Tuesday.
Earlier the verdict was scheduled to be delivered on December 19, 2016, however, Judge Ahmed Shakeel postponed the sentencing to January 24, 2017.
Mohamed Wisam and Leevan Ali Nasir are the first journalists to be convicted in more than a decade.
At the last hearing, the state prosecutor asked for jail sentence of four months and 24 days. Nevertheless, defence lawyer Abdulla Haseen reiterated that the prosecution was unable to prove the charges. He also appealed for the judge to impose an MVR12,000 fine in lieu of imprisonment.
Haseen also noted that the gap of more than a month between a guilty verdict and the sentencing is not the normal practice.
Wisam and Leevan were arrested on November 2, 2015, along with Raajje TV’s Chief Operating Officer, Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, while covering police attempts to defuse a bomb planted near the presidential palace. The three were released the following day, and accused police of beating them while they were in custody, however, the police have denied the journalists were beaten.
In April 2016, Wisam and Leevan were charged with obstructing police; COO Fiyaz was charged with assaulting a police officer.
Wisam faces a separate charge of obstructing police while covering a March 2015 protest. His next hearing is scheduled for January 31, while another videographer Adam Zareer of Raajje TV, who was arrested alongside Wisam at the same protest, was also charged with obstructing police. A verdict in Zareer’s case is expected on February 27, 2017.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a statement said that Authorities in Maldives should cease pursuing all criminal charges against journalists from Raajje TV.
Asia Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steven Butler made a statement saying that Raajje TV journalists Mohamed Wisam, Leevan Ali Nasir and Adam Zareer are guilty of nothing more than covering events of significant public interest. He stated that Maldives authorities should cease pursuing charges against the three journalists and “drop these embarrassing attempts to muzzle the media.”
The CPJ’s report highlighted that authorities have for years singled out Raajje TV for harassment.