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MJA requests amending Evidence Act

Mohamed Rehan
30 June 2022, MVT 13:30
Local journalists and reporters protest the current proposed amendment to Evidence Act-- Photo: Nishan Ali | Mihaaru
Mohamed Rehan
30 June 2022, MVT 13:30

Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has requested from the Parliament to revise the proposed amendments to the Evidence Act.

The recent prepositions to amend the Act include two specific circumstances under which Maldives courts hold discretion to acquire details of news sources from journalists.

This amendment was deemed as a regression on the freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 27 and 28 of the Maldivian Constitution.

At a time when concerns from the media fraternity over the amendment bill has been mounting, it was put on agenda of Thursday's parliament sitting for approval.

However, MJA has requested from the parliament to postpone the bill's approval until their concerns and the underlying issues have been properly addressed and mitigated.

The concern is centered around the proposed amendments to Section 136 of Evidence Act which grants authority to local courts to force journalists and reporters to disclose the credentials of their news sources.

Section 136 (a) specifies that the court cannot enforce disclosure of sensitive information such as the identity or credentials of the sources used by journalists in their reports.

However, Section 136 (b) dictates that in circumstances where the court finds it vital for its court or trial proceedings for the disclosure of such information, then it is in the court's discretion to enforce disclosure of such information from the journalists.

MJA contests that this amendment unshackles the restraints courts have towards forcing journalists or reporters to disclose sensitive information such as news sources.

Another concern is the prospective implications the amendment will have, such as inhibitions or hesitance from sources to provide information to reporters.

MJA had further claimed that though the committee had granted the opportunity of deliberation to the association towards the proposed amendment to Section 136 of the act, the committee had moved forward in approving the bill without providing adequate time to the association for their input.

The association had requested for appropriate time from Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, the bill currently contravenes the recommendations of the association along with the suggestions of IFJ, Amnesty International and Transparency Maldives.

Concerned associations had stated that though Article 28 of the Maldives Constitution provides a safety dragnet for journalists and reporters, this is countered with the presence of an amendment in the form of Section 136 (b).

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