Journalists submit a petition to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday, calling not to ratify the Evidence Bill as it would mandate journalists to reveal their sources in certain conditions.
Concealing a journalist's sources and evidences is a constitutional right granted to Maldivians. However, the Evidence Bill proposed by the government and passed by the parliament on June 30, grants courts with the power to order journalists to reveal their sources in matters of terrorism and national security.
Parliament passed the bill when journalists had requested on numerous occasion to change the article giving the courts the aforementioned power, and had protested outside the parliament as well.
Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) had submitted a petition containing 158 journalist's signatures to the President's Office, Attorney General's Office, and parliament today.
The journalists state that the the bill, as it is passed now, would allow for people in power to misuse the powers it grants and order journalists to reveal their sources, especially since the bill outlines the circumstances in which the court can order journalists to reveal sources. This may lead to both journalists, and their sources, to serve jail sentences as well.
According to the journalist's petition, the bill may cause whistleblowers to hesitate in coming forward as well.
"... [we] believe this will prevent the media from addressing a number of issues related to the public," the petition said in Dhivehi, the local language of Maldives.
Speaking after submitting the petition to the President's Office, President of MJA Ali Rishfan said he hopes President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will not ratify the bill and hopes it will be resubmitted to the Parliament.
He said they did not plan to give up and they had submitted a paper on this issue to the parliament before, and as outlined in the paper, they will continue to submit the documents.
MJA had submitted 12 recommendations in the petition; they include resubmitting the bill to the parliament without ratifying it.
- Clearly outline which acts of terrorism would require the sources to be revealed
- To narrow the power granted by the bill which to only apply to crimes specified in articles seven and 12 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
- To amend the bill so that sources have to be revealed only in states of emergencies
- Removing the power the bill grants to order even the accused of disclosing the sources
- Changing the definition of a journalist to "as a journalist for those who work in the media".
- To expand the definition of evidence to include "documents, notes, phone calls, text messages, other information, archives and anything that can be used to verify information by those working in the media."
- The term "unfair sentence and the likelihood of receiving an unfair punishment" is regarding an assumption rather than proven fact, and therefore Article 136 (c) (iii) should be removed from the bill.
- To change Article 136 (c) (iv) as "to reveal a journalist's sources only if no other avenue may lead for the investigation to go forward."
- To establish a regulation that would allow for the journalist or the person that works in media, to talk in court, when the discussion is held by the courts on whether they should order the journalist to reveal the evidence.