MJA and Maldives Editors Guild urge President Solih against ratifying bill forcing journalists to disclose sources

Media protest | Photo: Ahmed Shuraau/Avas

Malé, Maldives – The Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and Editors Guild on Sunday called on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to not ratify the “Evidence Bill” as passed by the Maldives Parliament on Thursday, 30 July 2022.

The statement reads that Article 136 of the Evidence Bill is deeply alarming and the bill must not be ratified without “extremely narrowing” the exceptions where sources may be disclosed.

Article 136 [of the Evidence Bill] empowers authoritative powers to exploit it … We urge to remove “national security” as a provision to compel journalists to reveal sources.

MJA, Editors Guild

MJA and Editors Guild also note that such vaguely worded laws are used by those in power to abuse the press in the past and ratifying the law as is will be a significant step backwards in the Maldives press freedom.

The press organisations also called on the President to include exceptions as per best practice which is to compel journalists to reveal sources only under “imminent threats” under Articles 7 and 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (No. 32/2015).

The Evidence Bill as it is, allows suspects to compel journalists for sources.

The statement urged the President to remove this clause and to clearly define “journalist” and to define the content which may be used to identify a source.

The statement also calls to remove language that allows for personal opinions such as Article 136 (c) which refers to an “unfair punishment received due to an unjust judgement” and leaves room for various interpretations.

The organizations further highlighted that the bill was passed without including the advisements of the MJA and Maldives Media Council (MMC), and urged President Solih to return the bill to the parliament for further amendments.

In addition to the local organizations, multiple international organizations have also called on the government to rescind and revise the bill.

… Current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih should not sign this bill into law.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch has also called on the administration and parliament to go back to square one and consult with journalists, media organizations, human rights lawyers, and other interested parties to amend the law regarding the revealing of sources and urgently restore the Maldives’ hard-won press freedoms.

Notably, Maldives dropped 15 places in the World Press Freedom Index with the then only proposed Evidence Act one of the main reasons for the decline.