Evidence Act amendment on source disclosure not passed!

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih seen with journalists after a press conference following a 6 month hiatus on December 28, 2022 at the President's Office about the progress of the administration's socioeconomic plans. | Photo: President’s Office

Parliament did not pass amendments to the Evidence Act that would have forced journalists to disclose their sources.

According to the Evidence Act, which the government passed in July last year, a court can order to disclose the source of information brought by a media outlet.

The Act does not define what constitutes a threat to national security, including the disclosure of information that “threatens national security.

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. 

The proposed amendment to the Evidence Act came in response to concerns raised by media rights organizations regarding provisions within Article 136 of the bill where the court can compel journalists and media outlets to reveal their sources in cases related to “acts of terrorism” and “national security-related matters”.

Under the article, the disclosure of a source is mandatory if the court finds no negative impact or significantly less negative impact to the source or others even if the source is revealed and; if the impact of revealing a source does not significantly impact the ability of journalists to find sources of factual information. 

The new amendment proposal drafted by the office of the Maldivian Attorney General clarified the circumstances under which journalists are required to reveal their sources and further defines the terrorism and national security aspects of the bill after concerns were raised by the local media community. The Attorney General said that the proposed amendments were drafted in consultation with the MJA and the Maldives Editors Guild, among others.

The Judiciary Committee of Parliament later decided that only the Prosecutor General could ask to disclose the source and only the High Court could decide. The committee also defined and amended the bill as a threat to national security.

However, when the amendments were put to the vote in the Parliament, the pro-government MPs voted against the bill. 31 MDP members voted against the bill while 12 members voted in favor.

Therefore, the proposed amendments to the Evidence Act have been referred back to the committee.