President Solih ratifies Evidence bill authorizing courts to compel journalists to disclose sources

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih | Photo: Maldives Independent

Male’, Maldives – President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday ratified the Evidence Act (Act No. 11/2022). Parliament passed the bill at the 22nd sitting of its second session on June 30, 2022. 

The President has rarified this bill disregarding requests by the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and Editors Guild earlier this month to amend the current bill to clarify and narrow down exceptions where sources may be disclosed. 

International media have also raised alarm upon passing of the bill by the Maldives parliament.

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.

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 oneand 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.