President Ibu Solih has ratified the Evidence Bill into law— which allows courts to compel journalists to disclose their sources.
The bill was reviewed by Parliament’s Judiciary Committee. Following their review, fifteen amendments to the bill was proposed, which were approved by the votes of 50 parliamentarians. Five members voted against passing the bill, while two abstained from voting.
Both Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) amd Maldives Media Council (MMC) has shared concerns regarding the bill. They have put forward safety issues and dangers around the people and family in concern of the source, saying their safety is not guaranteed.
What the Bill says?
Article 136 of the Evidence Bill stipulates two exceptions under which the courts can compel journalists to reveal their sources.
However, Article 136 (a) of the bill states that if the source had given information to journalist under the condition that his or her identity be not disclosed – no authority can compel the journalist or news outlet they work in to disclose the source without their consent.
Despite this provision – Article 136 (b) of the bill states that court can compel journalist to reveal their sources if requested by an investigative body, Prosecutor General’s Office, the suspect or the defendant in cases pertaining to terrorism or national security.
Judiciary Committee’s report read that the amendment was included in consideration of concerns raised by MJA and MMC but the later has show displeasure over the news
Journalist Displeased, the aftermath:
The concerned journalist are now planning on devising a campaign against the bill. MJA President Rifshan described the decision of President Solih to ratify the bill as a move to obstruct and prevent press freedom.
“The current administration, and the President himself has repeatedly vowed to provide the press full freedom. But this bill steals that freedom from us,” he said.
A petition with the signatures of 158 journalists was submitted to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ahead subsequent to the parliament’s decision – which urged against ratifying the bill with the source disclosure provision.