Defamation bill is not targeted towards journalists: Attorney General’s Office

Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath giving an interview at Attorney General's Office | Photo: PSM

Male’, Maldives – Attorney General’s office has said that the defamation bill which is being planned to be sent to parliament is not targeted towards journalists in Maldives.

Speaking at a local TV program, director of communications of Attorney General’s office, Hussain Hassan said that this was not an attempt to intimidate journalists and it’s merely a bill which gives constitutional power to the existing guideline which is being followed now.

“This bill we are sending to the parliament is not targeted for media with the aim to fine them” Hussain said. 

The criticism toward the defamation bill arose as previously during Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s presidency had passed a Defamation Act which narrowed down the freedom of expression and which was used to heavily fine local medias. The current administration said that they had no intention of using the defamation bill as a source of income to the government through fines as how it was used before.

Passed in August 2016, the Act was widely-condemned in Maldives and by international parties as it introduced hefty fines and jail terms for journalists and individuals found guilty of slander. The 2016 law was abolished in November 2018 with 38 votes in favor of it and 13 against with 51 members present from the 85-member house. Medias and others in Maldives labelled the 2016 Anti-defamation law as draconian and merely a tool to suppress freedom of expression.