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Maldivian radio station in Sri Lanka raided

The raid was carried out following charges of gun running which were trumped up by the Maldivian regime, media rights group RSF said.

world Updated: Jan 05, 2006 15:50 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Police have raided the offices of a Maldivian radio station based in Sri Lanka following charges of gun running which were trumped up by the Maldivian regime, Paris-based media rights group RSF said on Thursday.

Reporters sans Frontieres, or Reporters Without Borders, accused the Maldivian government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of repeatedly manipulating international police agency Interpol to harass dissidents based in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan police confirmed they raided the Colombo offices of Radio Minivan and eight days ago in search of arms but found nothing and closed the case after informing a magistrate.

"The government in Male has made a regrettable habit of sending reports to Interpol accusing independent Maldivian journalists and media based abroad of criminal activity without any proof," RSF said in a statement.

"This is an intimidatory policy designed to deprive thousands of Maldivians of independent news and information. We call on Interpol to investigate this crude manipulation by Male."

Maldivian police chief Adam Zahir had told Interpol that weapons were hidden on the premises and had accused the staff of preparing to overthrow Gayoom's government by force, RSF said.

The web-based radio station had been operating for the past 16 months.

The Minivan press group has been harassed and censored by the Gayoom government ever since its creation, RSF said.

The Minivan daily newspaper was launched in the Maldives last July but has not been able to publish normally since August as a result of police pressure on its printer, the group said.

It said most of Minivan's journalists in the Maldives are being prosecuted, while photo journalist Jennifer Latheef is serving a 10-year prison sentence for an alleged "terrorist act."

RSF said the Maldives was ranked 148 out of 167 countries in its latest world press freedom index in October.

First Published: Jan 05, 2006 12:35 IST