Court orders Haveeru chairman to join ex-staff media ban appeals

The former office Maldives’ oldest newspaper Haveeru.

The former office Maldives’ oldest newspaper Haveeru.

High Court on Sunday ordered Chairman of the now defunct Haveeru newspaper to join the two appeals being heard by the appellate court over the civil court imposed media ban on former staff of the country’s oldest and only newspaper.

Civil Court had concluded a legal dispute over the ownership of Haveeru and associated media, barring all employees of Haveeru Media Group from working at any media outlet in the country for two years.

The Attorney General (AG) had ignored a warning of contempt action to appeal the court imposed ban while over 30 staff formerly employed by Haveeru had also filed an appeal of the verdict at the High Court citing that the verdict clearly violated constitutional rights.

The three bench had decided to bring in Haveeru Chairman Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain into both the appeal cases.

The court had also asked for employment contracts to ascertain that the plaintiffs were indeed ex-Haveeru employees.

The verdict has been widely regarded as an attempt to close the Mihaaru newspaper launched by the staff following the forced closure of Haveeru.

The two year ban on Mihaaru journalists was imposed in the final verdict of the ownership lawsuit who worked for Haveeru from February this year.

The judge invoked a maxim in Islamic jurisprudence on preventing damage to justify the ban.

He also ordered the home ministry, the broadcasting commission, and other state institutions to take action against former staff working at other media organisations within seven days upon request by the majority shareholders.

-Closure of Maldives’ oldest and only newspaper-

Haveeru was shut down in March after its three new shareholders sued the paper’s founder, Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain, for a share of assets and profits for the past 35 years.

The lawsuit followed a controversial High Court ruling last year that split the paper’s ownership four ways. The appellate court awarded three former editorial staff a controlling stake based on a copy of a 1983 agreement.

After the lawsuit was filed in February, Haleem ordered the paper on April 2 to involve Farooq Hassan, Ibrahim Rasheed Moosa, and Mohamed Naeem in its management, including a role in making of editorial decisions and financial transactions.

However, in lieu of involving the new shareholders, the Haveeru Media Group – owned by Zahir’s three children – closed the paper and took its website offline.

In Sunday’s judgment, the judge ordered the Haveeru Media Group and relevant state authorities to transfer the newspaper, its online version, archive, its printing press, and other business interests related to the brand to the majority shareholders.

He also ordered the registrar of companies to change the name of the Haveeru Media Group within seven days.

Zahir was ordered to revive and continue the Haveeru newspaper, website, and printing press in accordance with the wishes of the majority shareholders.

The judge also ordered Zahir to audit Haveeru and to offer the other three owners their share.

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