Evidence bill to be amended amid concerns of provision threatening press freedom

Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath | Photo: Majilis

Malé, Maldives – Attorney General’s Office today released a statement the Evidence Bill will be amended at committee stage to address public and media concerns regarding provision granting courts rights to compel media to disclose sources.

Earlier today the Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed also addressed the concerns in a tweet stating that the feature is based on the Australian model but the AG will amend the provision given that the freedom of press is the first priority.

The AG Office states that the Article 136 (b) of the Evidence Bill was created in accordance with Article 16 of the Maldives Constitution, applied to the Article 28 of the constitution.

The Article 16 (a) of the Maldives Constitution states that,

Constitution of the Republic of Maldives

  • This Constitution guarantees to all persons, in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam, the rights and freedoms contained within this Chapter, subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis in a manner that is not contrary to this Constitution. Any such law enacted by the People’s Majlis can limit the rights and freedoms to any extent only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Article 16 further elaborates the factors a Court must take into account when deciding a right or freedom has been limited.

Article 28 of the Maldives constitution states that,

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of the press, and other means of communication, including the right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information, views and ideas. No person shall be compelled to disclose the source of any information that is espoused, disseminated or published by that person.

The Article 136 (b) of the Evidence Bill states that,a Judicial Court may compel journalists or media organizations to release the source’s identity in such cases where, reveling the identity of the source causes no negative impact or minimal negative impact to the source and others; or causes minimal damage to the media’s ability to find sources for factual information.

The above provision in the Evidence Bill has raised concerns among the press, local and international human rights groups organizations calling for the removal of Article 136 (b).