Parliament passes Evidence Bill, forces journalists to disclose source

The Parliament on Thursday passed the Evidence Bill to disclose the source of information through the courts. The bill was passed despite protests by journalists. The Maldives Media Council, senior journalists, and news agencies have been calling to stop the bill.

The bill was moved by Thinadhoo MP Abdul Mughunee on behalf of the government. The purpose was stated as to enhance the current outdated Evidence Act, which has been in force since 1976, by introducing strong policies that strengthen the act.

The Attorney General's Office proposed 15 amendments to the committee's report on the bill containing 151 articles. Despite the amendments, the clause on disclosing the information source remained as part of the bill. The bill was passed by the Parliament with 50 votes in its favor. While five members voted against the bill, two members abstained from voting.

The government's bill specifies evidence types, classification, submission and admission, and standards for taking and evaluating evidence. It also describes evidentiary rules such as the proportion of evidence required to prove offenses punishable by Islam in civil and criminal cases and the rules relating to the responsibility of proof. It also states other rules for submitting evidence, including what privileges cannot be offered as evidence.

The Media Council has expressed concern over the passing of the Evidence Bill, which allows journalists to disclose the source of information through the courts.

The Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, gave a curt reply to the journalists' concerns, stating that there is no solution to the issue of source disclosure at the moment. He said things played out the way it did because journalists did not do enough against it.

Forcing journalists to disclose the source of their information is a step backward in journalism. The current government came to power promising complete freedom of expression.