Evidence Act to be amended to address concerns of journalists

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih speaking at the first annual "Maldives Broadcast Award 2022" organised by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission. | Photo: President’s Office

Malé, Maldives – President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Wednesday night announced his decision to amend the Evidence Act, which was ratified in July of this year, in order to address the concerns of journalists.

He made the remark at the first annual “Maldives Broadcast Award 2022” organised by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission.

President Solih stated that there were concerns from journalists about the amendments that were brought to section 136 (b) of the Evidence Act, and that has met with journalists to discuss their concerns.

The President said that the administration would address these concerns as it had previously by repealing the Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act which curtailed press freedom.

The President appealed to all journalists to practice journalism responsibly and to uphold ethical standards. The President also emphasised the importance of providing journalists with opportunities for capacity building and skill development, highlighting the role of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and the Maldives Media Council in facilitating such opportunities, adding that the administration would support such efforts.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified the Evidence Act (Act No. 11/2022) in July 2022 after the parliament passed the bill at the 22nd sitting of its second session on June 30, 2022. 

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

International media 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 noted 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.