PG's decision to appeal Wisam's acquittal "embarrassing", must revoke decision

  • State levied obstruction charges against Wisam last year, over an arrest made while covering an opposition rally in March 2015
  • On March 28, Criminal Court acquitted Wisam of the charge, saying prosecutors were unable to prove him guilty; he was found guilty on a separate obstruction charge in December 2016
  • RaajjeTV said that PG's move "is designed solely to intimidate journalists, particularly journalists working at RaajjeTV”

K. Male' | Aishath Shaany | 17-April-2017 | Monday 16:19 | Shaaknee | Local | 802

Wisam with MD Ahmed Saleem (l) and COO Hussain Fiyaz Moosa -- Photo by: Mohamed Sharuhaan

RaajjeTV has said that the Prosecutor General (PG) Office’s decision to appeal RaajjeTV senior video journalist Mohamed Wisam’s acquittal “an embarrassing one”, and called to “revoke the decision immediately”.

While Criminal Court had, on March 28, found Wisam not guilty on obstruction charges, the PG Office appealed the court ruling on April 5. State raised obstruction charges against Wisam on the 5th of April 2016, over an arrest made while covering an opposition rally on the 25th of March 2015.

In a statement released on Sunday, RaajjeTV said called the PG’s decision “an unbelievable one”, adding “this move is designed solely to intimidate journalists, particularly journalists working at RaajjeTV”. It called on the PG Office to withdraw the appeal immediately, and to “cease the merciless attacks on journalism in the country”.

It noted “it is questionable whether the Prosecutor General uses the power of appeal granted to the office in a responsible manner”. 

“The decision to appeal Wisam’s acquittal, while several cases relating to crimes such as theft, drugs, violence and other such major offences remain without appeal, shows that Prosecutor General wished to enact punishments on journalists, one way or the other”, reads the statement.

Noting that Wisam was arrested and charged over an arrest made while he was fulfilling his mandate as a journalist, RaajjeTV said that “all the cases related to RaajjeTV journalists, both prosecuted and in trial, are trumped-up and devoid of legal grounds and evidence”.

RaajjeTV also noted that Wisam had been put through the ordeal for over two years, and emphasized that the long judicial process alone “has caused a lot of damage to an innocent and enthusiastic young journalist”.

It further said that it believes that the cases against its journalists are being carried out “solely with the purpose to silence the channel”, adding that all its reportage “are carried out within legal and ethical means of journalism”.

In addition, RaajjeTV has been faced with two hefty fines under the draconian Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Bill, which it noted in its latest statement.

“The decision by the Prosecutor General coincides with the extreme penalties levied on the station itself by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission,” it noted, adding that the station is currently in the process of raising funds to pay the latest fine of MVR one million, for broadcasting content that the Commission believes to be defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen.

The fine was imposed on 7th April, hours after it paid the first fine of MVR 200,000, imposed over a news story covered in its news bulletin on 19th November 2016. The journalist who wrote the report was fined MVR 50,000.

RaajjeTV said that it will continue to work in defence of free and fair media despite the never-ending penalties, and that it will “continue to uphold and foster democratic values” in the society.

Wisam was found guilty on a separate obstruction charge, along with the station’s Leevaan Ali Nasir, and both were fined MVR 28,800 each, while cameraman Adam Zareer was found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of MVR 3,000. COO Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, who has been charged with ‘touching an officer without consent”, is awaiting sentencing.