Government assures amendments to evidence bill, safeguarding press freedom

06 May 2024 | 23:50
Chief Spokesperson at the President's Office, Heena Waleed, speaking at Monday's conference (Photo/President's Office)

The Maldivian government has announced plans to submit amendments to the evidence bill, aiming to safeguard press freedom by making it easier for journalists to operate without fear of revealing their sources.

This decision comes in response to concerns raised by journalists and  organizations, following the passage of the evidence bill under the former presidency of Mohamed Solih.

Initially passed in July 2022 with a supermajority of MDP in Parliament, the evidence bill granted courts the authority to compel journalists to disclose their sources, eliciting apprehension among media professionals.

Despite efforts to propose amendments to address these concerns, the amendments were rejected by the majority party (MDP) in Parliament, leading to further discontent within the journalism community.

The repercussions of the evidence bill's enactment were reflected in the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) published by  Reporters Without Borders  where Maldives witnessed a decline of six ranks, underscoring the importance of safeguarding press freedom within the nation.

Chief spokesperson of the president's office, Heena Waleed, addressed the government's stance on the evidence bill during a press conference on Monday, emphasizing the administration's commitment to fostering an environment conducive to journalistic integrity.

Once the 20th parliament commences its work, the government aims to amend the evidence bill 

stated Heena Waleed

She assured that the government intends to advocate for press freedom and aims to amend the legislation to support journalists in their work.

Furthermore, Heena indicated that amendments to other restrictive laws, such as those pertaining to rallies and gatherings, implemented during the previous presidency of Abdulla Yameen, are also under consideration for revision.

With the ruling party securing a supermajority in the 20th parliament elections, the process of amending laws has become more streamlined, with the swearing-in ceremony scheduled for the 28th of this month.

The proposed amendments signify a pivotal step towards bolstering press freedom in the Maldives, reinforcing the government's commitment to upholding democratic values and ensuring a free and transparent media landscape.