Well-known freelance journalist and blogger Ismail “Hilath” Rasheed was stabbed in the neck near his Malé home today and was rushed in a critical condition to the city’s ADK hospital where he underwent an operation and was then placed in an intensive care unit.
“This knife attack has all the hallmarks of a targeted murder attempt,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Rasheed has made many enemies through his outspoken blogging. The authorities in charge of the investigation should not rule out the possibility that this was linked to his journalistic activity. He is a well-known journalist who has repeatedly been censored, arrested and threatened.
“The police must, as a matter of urgency, put a stop to the harassment of Rasheed and take the issue of his safety seriously. Any lack of response on their part will constitute a criminal failure to assist a person in danger.”
Malé police sub-inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that Rasheed was taken to ADK hospital after being stabbed at around 8:15 p.m. today. He added that the police were checking security camera footage to see whether they could identify the assailant from it.
MinivanNews quoted a hospital source as saying Rasheed’s assailant “slit his throat clean through the trachea” and that Rasheed survived only because a vital artery was missed “by millimetres.”
Rasheed’s blog, www.hilath.com, was blocked by the Communications Authority of the Maldives on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on 19 November 2011 on the grounds that it contained “anti-Islamic” material. A former editor of the newspaper Haveeru, Rasheed practices Sufi Islam.
He was hospitalized with a fractured skull on 10 December 2011 after taking part in a peaceful demonstration in support of religious tolerance that was stoned a group of men. The police then arrested him for taking part in the demonstration and held him until 9 January.
If it is confirmed that today’s attack was prompted by his journalism and blogging, Rasheed would be the first journalist to have been the target of a murder attempt in Maldives, which is ranked 73rd out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.