Maldives court nullifies AG’s stand, orders immediate enforcement of journos ban

Attorney General and actin home minister Mohamed Anil (C) pictured during a press conference. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

Attorney General and actin home minister Mohamed Anil (C) pictured during a press conference. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

Civil Court on Monday moved quickly to issue a ruling to nullify the comments of the Attorney General over the order to stop the staff of the archipelago’s oldest newspaper from working for any other media outlet.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil admitted Sunday that the home ministry would not be able to enforce the court order to stop the staff of Haveeru from working for any other media outlet as it would be in violation of the constitution and laws governing the country.

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

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.

Anil who is the acting home minister told Mihaaru that the home ministry, by law would not be able to take any action against the Haveeru staff despite the court order.

Reporters pictured at work in Mihaaru newsroom. MIHAARU FILE PHOTO

Reporters pictured at work in Mihaaru newsroom. MIHAARU FILE PHOTO

“As far as I can see this a civil case. So the defendant has the right for appeal. But as the home ministry is now involved, all I can tell you is that in light of the constitution and the laws, we [home ministry] cannot take any action against the staff even if they work for any other media organisation,” the Attorney General had said.

However, in a fresh ruling on Monday, the civil court countered the Attorney General’s statement ruling that it was null and void.

“All state institutions are obligated to comply and immediately enforce a court ruling until it is overruled by a higher court,” the ruling read.

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.

The former office Maldives' oldest newspaper Haveeru.

The former office Maldives’ oldest newspaper Haveeru.

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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