President Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has ratified the Defamation Bill today. Following ratification, the Bill is now published on the Government's Gazette.
The Defamation bill states that any action, statement or work that is not backed by facts and evidence and negatively impacts any person, his character, dignity or rights will be termed as an act of defamation. Additionally, any statement, action or works that contravenes Islam, impacts national integrity, ethical and social norms, media standards and/ or promotes dissent against state agencies will also be termed as defamation.
In the event a defamation suit is proved, a media house has to pay an amount between MVR 25,000 and MVR 1,000,000. Individual reporters will be fined by an amount between MVR 50,000 and MVR 150,000. In the event the media house cannot make the payments, then the media license will be revoked, while journalists will be jailed for between three to six months under criminal charges. An appeal can be filed only after paying the fines.
The bill states that any illegal actions by institutions, any work that impacts health and well-being of an individual or the environment cannot be labelled as libel. Opinions based on informative reports, reports on Parliament and Court proceedings, investigative authorities and cases under review is not defamation.
The bill, however, states that journalists must work to seek the opinions of individuals against whom allegations are made on podiums and rallies. The article can be published without the statement of the individual though.