Govt. submits revisions to Evidence Act following media backlash

Journalists protest in front of People's Majlis building on June 30, 2022. (Sun photo)

The government has submitted a bill to the Parliament to revise the provision in the Evidence Act that allows courts to force journalists and media outlets to reveal their sources.

The bill was presented by Gan MP Mohamed Wisam at the parliamentary sitting Monday.

The Evidence Act declares national security threats and terror offenses as grounds for court orders to disclose sources.

The chief concern raised by the press is the lack of clear definition of national security threats in the Act, which they argue could lead to misuse of the term.

The government bill seeks to define national security threats and terror offenses.

The bill states that only the High Court can issue orders to force source disclosure, in response to petitions filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office.

It also states that the court, before it issues such orders, must consider several factors including the extent of the damage or detrimental impact if the identity of a source is revealed, and the extent to which failure to release the information could result in an unfair judgement or penalty on a defendant on trial.

Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) had said it is opposed to amending the Evidence Act to cover national security.

MJA said it believes only situations where a person’s life or a place is under immediate danger or great damage should warrant disclosure of sources.

MJA said that the declaration of terror offenses as ground for forced disclosure of sources already covers national security threats.

The Evidence Act was ratified on July 18, despite a petition filed by the press with the President’s Office expressing concern over the legislature.