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Evidence Act to begin implementation despite journalist concerns

Lamya Abdulla
18 January 2023, MVT 16:56
(FILE) Journalists protesting outside parliament on June 30, 2022, against passing the Evidence Bill: the Evidence Bill is being implemented on January 18, 2023 -- Photo: Nishan Ali / Mihaaru
Lamya Abdulla
18 January 2023, MVT 16:56

The Evidence Act, which a lot of journalists have expressed concerns over, came into effect on Wednesday.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified this act in July of 2022, and it was to be implemented six months later. The act outlines situations in which journalists are forced to disclose their sources.

According to Article 136 of the Act, the court can force journalists to disclose their sources in cases related to terrorism and national security.

However, journalists have been raising concerns claiming that it is an attempt to disrupt work. Therefore, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) sent an amendment to the President's Office.

The AGO said that, after considering the views of journalists, they have sent to amend the provision under the act that makes revealing their sources mandatory. The purpose of introducing the amendment was to address the concerns journalists have regarding certain provisions of the act that mandate them to reveal their sources, and find solutions for these, they said.

However, the new law lays down the nature of evidence, the manner in which evidence is classified, the amount of evidence needed to prove something, and the procedures to be followed in submitting, accepting and evaluating evidence.

So far, Maldives has been following the Evidence Act which was enacted in 1976. There were only seven articles in this law. The other law that outlines how evidence has to be considered in the court of law is the Women's Testimony Act of 1972.

While the government agrees to bring some of the amendments sought by journalists into the law, Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) is against amending the Evidence Act while it includes the term "national security".

MJA had requested the provision mandating journalists reveal their sources before they filed a case with the court requesting for it.