President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday ratified the Evidence Act, which forces journalists to disclose the source of information.
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 The purpose was stated as to enhance the current outdated Evidence Act, which has been in force since 1976, by introducing strong policies that strengthen the act.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.
Article 136 of the newly ratified law states that journalists cannot be forced to disclose the source of information published in their writings. However, it states that in the case where the police or the state requests journalists to disclose their source in matters concerning terror crimes and national security, the information must be provided as instructed by the court, the new amendment states.
Furthermore, if an act of terrorism has been committed or attempted, and in cases where the public interest outweighs the journalist's interest in not disclosing the source, the law requires the source to be disclosed. The law also requires the source to be disclosed if the accused is in a position where he would not be acquitted.
The act specifies the procedures to be followed when gathering evidence in civil and criminal proceedings, as well as the processes to be followed when submitting, accepting, and evaluating evidence. It also specifies other evidence-related elements, such as the extent of evidence required to support a claim.
One of the primary purposes of the act is to ensure the necessary evidential procedures are detailed in the form of required actions so that the right to a fair trial, as per Article 42 of the Constitution, is satisfied.
The President ratified the Evidence Bill despite a petition signed by 158 journalists being submitted to the President's Office seeking the deletion of the source disclosure clause. The Media Council has also sent a letter to the President's Office expressing concern on the matter.