Maldives: Killing of Yameen Rasheed underscores urgent need for reform


Maldives: Killing of Yameen Rasheed underscores urgent need for reform

Yameen Rasheed’s family submit a petition to Maldives Police Services to investigate his murder.

Your Excellency,

The undersigned civil society organisations write to you to condemn in the strongest terms the murder of internationally recognised Maldivian blogger Yameen Rasheed. We call on the government to take all necessary measures to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to justice and to end the cycle of impunity for attacks on journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders that has taken root in the Maldives.

Yameen Rasheed was an impassioned critic who reported on issues related to corruption, radicalism, and impunity, mainly through his popular blog The Daily Panic. In 2015, IFEX helped to support Yameen to speak out on these issues at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. His witty and relentless condemnation of systemic injustice earned him praise but also drew the attention of religious extremists and government officials who felt threatened by his social and political commentary.

Yameen Rasheed had reported numerous death threats before his attack. The police refused to act on any of his complaints. Reports since his killing suggest that the crime scene had been tampered with before a thorough review of evidence could be carried out. Furthermore, the family of Yameen Rasheed has reported harassment by local police who sought to prevent them from making public calls for justice for the death of their son. Such troubling reports raise doubts about the authorities’ commitment to ensure that a proper investigation takes place.

Yameen’s case is emblematic of the growing intolerance for ideas and opinions that challenge the role of religion in society throughout South Asia. Similar to countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, in the Maldives, harassment of individuals that promote moderate or secular views has been common, and is justified by both militant criminal groups and sympathetic politicians on the grounds that these ideas are “un-Islamic.”

Yameen is one of three recent high-profile cases of attacks on media personnel in the Maldives over the past five years. In 2012 Ismail Rasheed, a freelance journalist and human rights campaigner, barely survived after having his throat slit near his home in the Maldivian capital, Malé. In 2014, Ahmed Rilwan, journalist for Minivan News, was abducted from his office and remains missing to this day. Rilwan was a close friend of Yameen’s, and much of Yameen’s work was focused on finding justice for Rilwan’s abduction. In all cases there has been a lack of adequate police investigation and response.

There are further causes for concern in the broader Maldivian free expression environment. The country ranks 117th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Press Freedom Index, due in large part because of restrictive laws such as the 2016 “Protection of Reputation and Good Name and Freedom of Expression Bill”, which criminalises defamation based on an overly broad definition of the offence. Public threats have frequently been issued against independent media by politicians, criminal gangs and religious extremists and have helped to create a climate of hostility that has led to self-censorship. Imprisonment of journalists and activists is also a common tactic used to silence critical voices.

Yameen Rasheed’s death should serve as a strong indicator of the need for immediate steps to protect space for dissent and debate in the Maldives, space that is threatened by draconian laws and impunity for attacks committed against individuals expressing controversial or adversarial opinions. As such, we call on the government to take the following measures:

• Ensure that a timely, thorough, and transparent investigation into the killing of Yameen Rasheed takes place and all perpetrators of this crime against freedom of expression are brought to justice. Similar action should be taken in the cases of Ismail Rasheed and Ahmed Rilwan;

• Investigate and hold accountable all those who make threats or incite violence against journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders, as well as against the family of Yameen Rasheed;

• Amend or repeal laws that create disproportionate and unnecessary limits to legitimate expression, according to standards specified in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Maldives in 2006;

• Implement legislation and other measures to create a safe and enabling environment for journalists and human rights defenders, according to relevant recommendations accepted by the Maldives during its 2nd cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR);

• Improve independence of the judiciary and build technical capacity of the police force through international assistance and other reforms, as agreed to by the Maldives during its 2nd cycle UPR.


Bytes for All
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center
Association for Media Development in South Sudan
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Committee to Protect Journalists
Foundation for Press Freedom – FLIP
Freedom Forum
Free Media Movement
Global Voices Advox
Globe International Center
Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
Index on Censorship
Institute of Mass Information
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre
International Publishers Association
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders
Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
Awaz Foundation Pakistan, Centre for Development Services
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum
Center for Social Activism
Center for Media Research – Nepal
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Free Press Unlimited
Maldivian Democracy Network
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights
People’s Watch India
Pakistan NGOs Forum
Programme Against Custodial Torture and Impunity
South Asian Women in Media – Sri Lanka
South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1494603115837-be75a009-7c8a-9″ taxonomies=”9143, 4002, 8875, 9028″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Maldives must pursue murderers of journalists

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”108902″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship calls on the Maldivian authorities to step up their investigation and pursue the individuals behind the murders of the journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla and blogger Yameen Rasheed.

“The government of the Maldives must do all it can to uncover and bring to justice all those responsible for the murders of Ahmed and Yameen. Their pursuit of truth in the public interest led to their murders at the hands of criminals bent on silencing their work,” Perla Hinojosa, Index Fellowships & Advocacy Officer, said.

Rilwan’s disappearance in 2014 shook the Maldives, when he was forced into a car at knifepoint outside his home on the island of Hulhumale and taken in a boat out to sea where he was killed, according to Husnu Suood, the head of a Maldives presidential commission set up to investigate the case. Suood said the people who murdered Rilwan, also murdered his friend Rasheed, who was leading a campaign to find Rilwan. 

At the time of his abduction, Rilwan was reporting for the news website now known as the Maldives Independent, which was named the winner of an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Fellowship in journalism in 2017.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1567498421448-a2c7a885-6928-8″ taxonomies=”6534″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Maldives: Prominent blogger and internet activist stabbed to death

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship strongly condemns the killing of Maldives blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was found with multiple stab wounds in the stairway of his apartment building in Malé on Sunday 23 April 2017, and died soon after he was taken to the hospital.

“We call on Maldives authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the murder of Yameen Rasheed,” Index’s head of advocacy Melody Patry said. “The failure to protect Rasheed after he reported receiving multiple death threats to the police is tragic. It is critical the police show credible and independent efforts to bring those responsible to justice.”

Rasheed was 29 years old and frequently satirised the Maldives’ political and religious authorities in his blog the Daily Panic. Zaheena Rasheed, friend and editor of the Maldives Independent news website said Yameen Rasheed had reported receiving multiple death threats to the police.  He was also a close friend of Ahmed Rilwan, the Maldives Independent journalist who was abducted and disappeared in 2014.

This killing takes place the same week editors of Maldives Independent received the 2017 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Journalism Award. During her acceptance speech, exiled editor Zaheena Rasheed said “the space for independent press was narrowing by the day”.

Maldives journalists and bloggers have faced increased pressure and taken great risks to express their opinion and hold the government to account. In August 2016 the Maldives passed a law criminalising defamation and empowering the state to impose heavy fines and shut down media outlets for “defamatory” content.  In September, Maldives Independent’s office was violently attacked and later raided by the police, after the release of an Al Jazeera documentary exposing government corruption. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1492962363297-360949b6-0f99-2″ taxonomies=”4002″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Annual appeal: “We no longer feel so alone”

Staff at the Maldives Independent taking part in self-defence training.

Staff at the Maldives Independent taking part in self-defence training.

“This award feels like a lifeline. Most of our challenges remain the same, but this recognition and the fellowship has renewed and strengthened our resolve to continue reporting, especially on the bleakest of days. Most importantly, we no longer feel so alone.”

– Zaheena Rasheed, former editor Maldives Independent, 2017 Journalism Fellow

Silence is the oppressor’s friend. Harassing those who speak out against corruption and injustice – like this year’s Freedom of Expression Awards Fellows Maldives Independent – is the favoured tool of those who seek to crush dissent. We cannot let the bullies win.

With your help, each year we are able to support writers, journalists and artists at the free speech front line – wherever they are in the world – through Index Fellowships. These remarkable individuals risk their freedom, their families and even their lives to speak out against injustice, censorship and threats to free expression.

I am writing now to ask you to support the Index Fellows. Your donation provides the support and recognition these outstanding individuals need to ensure their voices are heard despite the restrictions under which they are forced to live and work.

Your support will help award winners like Maldives Independent, which has continued to provide independent and critical journalism despite continued government pressure, threats of closure and the tragic murder of prominent liberal blogger and close friend of the Maldives Independent Yameen Rasheed in April, just a few days after the Freedom of Expression Awards 2017.

In spite of these challenges, Index has worked closely with Maldives Independent to help them to get on a better footing financially, to secure their office and staff, and to help them continue to hold power to account and expose wrongdoing and corruption in the country.

Reflecting on Index’s help, ex-editor Zaheena Rasheed said: “Sometimes you don’t realise how working in the kind of environment that we are working in and facing the kind of personal and professional challenges and losses that it, it can take a toll, and I think for me it [Index’s help] has been really helpful because I realise in many ways that I do need some help.”

I hope you will consider showing your support for free speech and the Index Fellows. A gift of £500 would support professional psychological assistance for a fellow; a gift of £100 helps them travel to speak at more public events. A gift of £50 helps us to be available for them around the clock. You can make your donation online now.

Please give what you can in the fight against censorship in 2018. Make your voice heard so that others can do the same.

Thank you for your support.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO

P.S. The 2018 Index on Censorship awards will be held in April. To find out more about the awards including previous winners, please visit:

Index on Censorship is an international charity that promotes and defends the right to free expression. We publish the work of censored writers, journalists and artists, and monitor, and campaign against, censorship worldwide.