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Maldives crisis: Indian scribe among two AFP reporters arrested in Maldives

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NEW DELHI: Two reporters, including an Indian national, employed with news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) have been arrested in politically volatile Maldives, ANI reported.

Money Sharma from Punjab’s Amritsar and Atish Ravji Patel from London were arrested under Maldivian SoE decree for “national security purposes”.

Member of Parliament Ali Zahir demanded the immediate release of the two scribes amid a government crackdown on dissent during the country’s current state of emergency.

“We don’t have freedom of press anymore. Last night one of the leading TV stations was closed. We call for their immediate release and restoration of democracy and rule of law,” Zahir told ANI.

The Maldivian lawmaker was referring to the shut down of a privately owned television station because of threats.

Rajje TV, which highlights the views of the political opposition, said in a statement that it stopped broadcasting because the country’s environment does not allow journalists to report freely and independently. It said a mob had gathered at the station and called for it to be burned down, and government lawmakers had asked the broadcasting regulator to close it.

It said the regulator, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, has been taken over by the military, and police have withdrawn security for the television station despite the threats.

“Given the present circumstances, especially with the curtailing of the right to free media, we have no choice but to suspend our regular services to ensure the safety and security of our station and our staff,” the station said.

President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency after the Supreme Court ordered the release and retrial of his jailed political opponents. However, the court reversed its decision after police arrested two of its judges and accused them of accepting bribes to work against the government.

Imposing emergency suspends all basic rights and gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects.

International community has asked the Yameen government to restore the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have expressed concern about the political situation in Maldives over a phone call earlier on Friday.

(With inputs from Agencies)

Updated: February 9, 2018 — 2:07 pm

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