The Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced two journalists of local television channel Raajje TV, Mohamed Visam and Leevan Ali Nazeer, to pay a fine of MVR 28,800 within a period of month on charges of obstructing Police.
The two journalists were charged with obstructing Police for attempting to stop policemen from arresting their CEO Hussain Fiyaz, who had been caught trespassing on Maafannu Stadium which the police had closed off in November 2015 to defuse an explosive device discovered near the presidential palace of Muliaage.
According to the verdict read by Judge Ahmed Shakeel, the testimonies of witnesses prove that Visam and Leevan had obstructed police officers who were doing their lawful duties, adding that the duo's presence at the scene of offence was also proven by the words of their lawyer.
Police officers declared in their witness statements that the two journalists had grabbed the policeman, who was arresting CEO Fiyaz, around the waist and tried to pry his grasp off Fiyaz.
However, the defence lawyer stated that policemen had beat Visam and Leevan who had done nothing to obstruct them.
The Criminal Court had pronounced them guilty of their charges last December 19, but postponed the reading of their final verdict to January 24. Visam and Leevan have narrowly avoided a jail sentence with their proven charges carrying a jail term of four months. Their sentence was minimised as this is their first proven criminal offence.
The journalists’ lawyer Abdulla Haseen announced that they will appeal the case at the High Court, stating that he does not accept that their charges were proven.
This is the first case in recent times that criminal charges have been proven against journalists. Previous administrations had not prosecuted journalists following implementation of free media in the new Constitution.
Meanwhile, Visam is facing a second case of obstructing police which is still unclosed.
Another journalist of Raajje TV and its CEO Fiyaz are undergoing criminal trials.