A coalition of civil society organisations, including the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Transparency Maldives, Association for Democracy in the Maldives (ADM), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has issued a joint statement urging the Maldives government “to expedite investigations and the pursuit of prosecutions, wherever evidence permits, to eliminate impunity for serious crimes committed against journalists in the Maldives.”

The statement expressed deep concern over recent developments, particularly the decision made by the criminal court on 22 November 2023, when the court dropped charges against the accused in the murders of journalist Ahmed Rilwan and blogger Yameen Rasheed.

This move has raised significant concerns, especially in light of previous court proceedings that highlighted negligence on the part of investigating agencies and prosecutors.

“Despite the government elected 2018-2023 pledging to swiftly investigate and resolve these cases, it is deeply concerning that the charges filed against alleged perpetrators after years of investigation, were thrown out by the court citing lack of enough evidence to prosecute the cases. This raises serious questions about the work and decisions made by the investigating authorities during these years,” the statement read.

The lack of transparency in such cases has also drawn criticism from the organisations.

“It is concerning that in such cases of immense public interest, the details of the investigation are not publicised, and other details are hushed up leading to a total lack of transparency from investigating agencies,” said the statement. “This along with the fact that multiple governments have used these cases to further their political ambitions has led to a complete erosion of public trust in the investigation and judicial processes.”

The prevailing impunity and absence of justice in cases as significant as those mentioned above create an environment of fear and intimidation for journalists while emboldening the perpetrators of crimes against them, the organisations said.

To address these pressing issues, the coalition of civil society organisations has called upon the Government of Maldives and relevant prosecutorial authorities to take the following actions:

  1. Publish comprehensive information and reports related to the investigations conducted by the Commission on Deaths and Disappearances from 2018 to 2023.
  2. Swiftly and urgently complete the investigation process in the aforementioned cases and prosecute the perpetrators without delay.
  3. Initiate fresh investigations into the agencies and individuals responsible for negligence from the inception of these cases up to their current stages, as this negligence has caused irreparable damage to the investigation.
  4. Publicly disclose the reason(s) for the Prosecutor General’s decision to not appeal the cases after they were dismissed by the court.

The challenges surrounding the investigation and prosecution of the accused in the murders of Rilwan and Yameen highlight the serious systemic deficiencies in upholding justice and accountability in cases involving crimes against journalists in the Maldives.