The Maldives Civil Court today banned former employees of the defunct Haveeru from working in any other media station, ordering Ministry of Home Affairs to penalise any employee who does, within the next two years, according to reports.
The issue could force the closure of Mihaaru newspaper, which was set up last year by former Haveeru journalists who resigned en masse after the ownership dispute.
Mihaaru's assistant editor Ali Naafiz spoke to The Maldives Independent:
"If we continue, the home ministry can enforce the order and take back the operating license of Mihaaru. If we still continue we can be arrested and charged individually. We will be jobless for the next two years. This is an absolute violation of our fundamental rights, our right to work anywhere we want. This is part of the government's continuing crackdown on the press."
This comes after the shutting down of a media outlet, Channel News Maldives, known for being critical of the current administrtion. Four journalists from Raajje TV, known for supporting the opposition, are soon to stand trial.
Haveeru shuttered last April after the paper's founder, Doctor Mohamed Zahir Hussain, was sued by its three new shareholders for a share of the assets and profits acquired over the past 35 years.
This High Court ruling controversially cited a 1983 agreement, resulting in three former editorial staff getting a controlling stake of the paper.
Reportedly, sources close to Zahir claim the lawsuit was politically motivated, and sought to compromise the newspapers journalistic independence.
Many argue that today's ruling infringed on the constitutional rights of the former Haveeru employees.
"Every citizen has the right to engage in any employment or occupation," states article 37(a) of the constitution, which also prohibits slavery and forced labour.