Amnesty International calls on govt. to withdraw decision to revoke MDN

October 25 2019; A protest in Male' city calling to ban the Maldivian Democracy Network due to the published report that mocked some tenets of Islam. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Amnesty International has called on the government to withdraw its decision to revoke the license issued to the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN).

The Youth Ministry had decided yesterday to revoke the licenses issued to MDN regarding a controversial report by the organization that went against the tenets of Islam and mocked the Prophet Mohammed (SAW). The decision came after days of protests and a large social media campaign by some members of the public calling for the organization to be banned. Public anger was also directed at the government for its slow response to ban the organization.

The decision to revoke the license for the organization was criticized by Amnesty International yesterday in a statement that read that the culture of repressing rights in the Maldives was still present.

“The new Maldivian government was supposed to mark a break with the island nation’s repressive past. The decision to shut down the MDN’s operations, however, show that time-worn tactics to intimidate human rights defenders and shrink space for civil society remain a threat,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, South Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

Cover of Maldives Democracy Network (MDN)'s controversial 2016 report. (Photo/MDN)

“The MDN is being punished for exercising its legitimate right to freedom of expression. The fact that a more than four-year-old report is being cited now as grounds to shut down the NGO raises suspicions as to the true motives behind this decision. Is the new government just as intolerant of critical voices as the one it replaced?” Dinushika Dissanayake further stated.

Amnesty International called the decision to revoke the license of MDN as without due process and called on the government to take back the measure before reminding that the Maldives was a party to international conventions that call to respect freedom of speech and expression.

Amnesty’s statement coincides with the contradicting statements of Youth Minister Mahloof who stated that mocking the Islamic faith or Prophet Mohamed wasn’t condoned even in Europe and that it did not fall under free speech.

Shahindha Ismail Executive Director of Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN).

The police have sent a summons to Shahindha Ismail and Dr. Azra Naseem who were both members of MDN, for questioning regarding the publication. Both are among contributors to the publication and currently, reside abroad. Dr. Azra has refused to return to the Maldives in response to the summons citing a lack of confidence in the police to protect her from possible retaliation.