Article 136 of the proposed Evidence Bill, which was sent by the government of Maldives to the People’s Majlis for debate on August 30, adds two exceptions under which the courts can compel journalists to reveal their sources.
The two instances specified are; if the court decides that there is 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.
Article 28 of the Maldives’ Constitution states that “no person shall be compelled to disclose the source of any information that is espoused, disseminated or published by that person”. The proposed amendments significantly restrict these freedoms and contravene Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The IFJ and MJA recently launched an impunity research report titled 'Chasing Justice on Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists in the Maldives’ on August 22. The report finds that despite widespread online and offline violence towards journalists, not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice in the Maldives. It includes the findings of a perception that captures journalists’ thoughts on press freedom, press safety and the issue of impunity.
The MJA said:“The negative impact this will have on press freedom is quite clear and it will reverse the progress we have made. The Maldives Journalist Association calls on the government and the People’s Majlis to take immediate action to restore confidence in the journalistic right to source protection and withdraw Article 136 (b) of the new Evidence Bill without delay.”
The IFJ said: “This is a deeply disturbing development and, if approved, totally undermines all of the media reform progress that has been made in the country. This is against international standards for press freedom and we strongly oppose this attempt to stifle press freedom in the Maldives.”