Mihaaru article claimant’s MDP membership document invalid: MDP deputy

Mohamed Shifaz (R), deputy leader of main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), arrives with his lawyer at police headquarters. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Mohamed Shifaz (R), deputy leader of main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), arrives with his lawyer at police headquarters. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Former Vice President of Local Government Authority, Shujau Hussain, does not have any valid documents attesting him a member of main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), declared the party’s deputy, Mohamed Shifaz, after being questioned by police over a case filed by the former.

Police had summoned Shifaz late Wednesday over the case filed by Shujau in connection to an article published in Mihaaru newspaper on September 20. Shujau had accused the article’s reference to him as an “MDA (Maldives Development Alliance) member”, cited from Shifaz, was defamatory. Police had subsequently summoned Mihaaru’s journalist Fazeena Ahmed earlier to take her statement, now followed by Shifaz.

Speaking to Mihaaru after giving his statement, Shifaz stated that it is the responsibility of the claimant to prove the falseness of allegedly “defamatory” comments. However, the documents submitted by Shujau to prove his MDP membership were merely copies of his party application form, according to Shifaz, which do not confirm his membership was accepted by the party.

Disclosing that he has submitted the documents proving Shujau was not a member of MDP at the time the article was published, Shifaz added, “I believe that police should summon me [again] only if the documents they received, or the documents submitted by the claimant, prove my statement false.”

Shujau had filed his case in the wake of the contentious Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act that was recently passed by the Maldives government. Shifaz noted that while the government had insisted that the Act does not look to silence media freedom or curtail political entities, this first case filed under the act indicts a top politician and a journalist.

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