A court in the Maldives has barred a group of journalists from working for their newly formed media organization for two years, threatening its closure in a move they criticized as the latest assault on media freedom in the archipelago nation.

The journalists launched Mihaaru news two months ago after the country's oldest and most reputed news organization, Haveeru Media Group, was shut down as a result of court arbitration of an ownership dispute. In its decision Sunday, the court barred them from working for any group other than Haveeru.

Mihaaru staff on Monday called the court verdict "an act of aggression by the state against independent and free media" and said it violated their fundamental human rights.

The government has been accused of abusing the judiciary for political gain.