Monday 22nd Jul 2024
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Ten organizations express concern over Evidence Act

Ten local and international organizations have expressed their concern over the recently passed Evidence Act.
The Act compels journalists to reveal their sources. The Act was fast tracked in Parliament and ratified by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in spite of pleas from journalists and media bodies.
Amnesty International, Centre for Law and Democracy, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders have all expressed their concern over the Act.
They are joined by Maldives Journalist Association, Editors Guild, and Transparency Maldives.
The statement released by the groups called on the Government to repeal or amend the Act, calling it “deeply problematic”.
“Article 136 of the new law uses vague and overbroad terms such as “acts of terrorism” and “national security related crimes” when identifying instances where journalists can be compelled to disclose their sources. These overly broad categories, which are not defined, are deeply concerning due to the Maldives’ long history of stifling peaceful dissent and muzzling press freedom using “acts of terrorism” and “national security related crimes” as an excuse to arbitrarily arrest, jail and even torture political dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders and activists,” states the joint statement.
“This is an opportunity for the Maldivian government and parliament to demonstrate their commitment to human rights and rule of law by ensuring that the progress made with regard to promotion and protection of freedom of expression and press freedom in the Maldives is not reversed’”
Joint statement
It added the Act ‘clearly fails to respect international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression’. The biggest concern with the Act, it added, was loss of access to sources who may refrain from reporting to journalists out of fear of criminal penalties.

“This will have a chilling effect on the work of journalists investigating and reporting human rights violations, corruption, and abuse of power by state authorities,” it said.

The joint statement also noted the Parliament had refused to take into account the concerns raised by journalists and media rights bodies over the Act. It also noted that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had ignored a petition filed by 158 journalists.

The groups called the authorities to repel or amend the Evidence Act to reflect international human rights law and standards, to seek consultation with international and local experts including journalists, editors, and human right’s activists, before it comes to effect.