MMC raises concerns over provision in evidence bill regarding disclosing sources by journalists

A capture from a convening of the Maldives Media Council. (Photo/Maldives Media Council)

Maldives Media Council (MMC) has raised concerns over the provision on the evidence bill – submitted to the Parliament by the Government – which stipulates that in some circumstances, journalists must disclose their sources in the articles they write.

In a statement released by MMC yesterday – they noted that Article 28 of the Constitution stated that everyone has the right to freedom of the press and other means of communication – including the right to espouse, disseminate and publish news, information,
views and ideas – and that no one can be compelled to disclose the source of any information espoused, disseminated, or published by that person.

However, MMC stressed that on the contrary – Article 136 (b) of the evidence bill which is currently up to debate at the Parliament, stipulates two special circumstances in which a judge can order journalists to disclose their sources during court proceedings.

Hence, MMC said that if the bill is passed the way it is currently written – it is a clear violation of the freedom of press currently guaranteed by the Constitution and that there is a possibility for the provision to be exploited in order to compel the disclosure of sources.

MMC further added that a law being passed in a manner that violates the freedom of press – would backtrack the progress the Maldives has made on the Press Freedom Index. They also said that this would garner criticism internationally – which could lead other nations to ostracize the Maldives.

In concluding their statement – MMC called on the Government and the Parliament to omit the provision that concerns have been raised over from the evidence bill in light of the lessons learned previously from the sufferings of local media outlets and journalists at the time the Defamation Act was in place.

In addition to this – they also expressed their wishes to meet with the relevant parliament committee regarding the matter. MMC also informed journalists and media outlets via the statement that they had decided to do everything within their capability to resolve the matter – at a meeting held yesterday.