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Evidence Act with provision on revealing journalist sources to be amended

Mohamed Rehan
25 September 2022, MVT 20:50
Local journalists expressed stern criticism over the apparent infringement to their journalistic rights--
Mohamed Rehan
25 September 2022, MVT 20:50

Attorney General's Office (AGO) on Sunday, September 25 confirms new bill in the works to rectify the legal thorns from previous amendment of the Evidence Act.

According to AG Office, the Evidence Act rectified on July 18, 2022 prohibited any "compulsion of disclosure upon the journalist, where they had acquired the information on the basis of a promise or guarantee of confidentiality, unless the source consents to such a disclosure."

Following concerns by journalists over exceptions to the rule whereby journalists cannot be compelled to disclose their source of information, according to Section 136(b) of the Evidence Act, Maldives government decided to propose the amendment.

Amendments proposed include, clear specification of the offenses related to the national security and offenses related to terrorism which are the exceptions according to the section in question. Moreover, the circular specifies the offenses related to national security, described as offenses involving any threat to the independence and sovereignty of the Maldives, or any threat of major damage to a person or persons' lives, limbs or property.

Offenses related to terrorism have been described as "offenses stated under under Chapter 2 of Law Number 32/2015 (Prevention of Terrorism Act)".

The aforementioned elements are factors of consideration for the courts in "obligating the disclosure of a journalist's source of information." As per the Attorney General's Office, this discretion is vested in Maldives High Court.

The AG Office circular further confirms, following discussions with Maldives Journalists Association (MJA), Maldives Editors Guild (MEG) and other relevant stakeholders of the industry, the government is pushing a rectification bill that proposes the aforementioned amendments to be formulated for submission to Maldives parliament.

The bill is expected to enter parliament floors sometime this week.

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