Journalists from different media organizations have joined a protest staged outside of the parliament building against the passing of the new Evidence Bill in its current form.
Editors and senior reporters from several online papers were present at the protest along with EXO members of the Maldives Journalism Association MJA.
Maldives Journalism Association MJA had said that the protest was staged to voice concerns over the parliament's plans to move ahead with the "source disclosure" provisions in the Evidence Bill— without incorporating comments from MJA and Maldives Media Council MMC to ensure safeguards are in place to prevent abuse of these provisions.
It had said on Twitter that the current draft uses overbroad and expansive provisions like "national security-related matters" and "acts of terrorism" without specifying what crimes come under these broad categories.
MJA also said that with Maldive's history of misuse of "acts of terrorism" and "national security" in politically motivated cases, it is concerning that the parliament will move ahead on this issue, without proper checks and balances in place to ensure these provisions are not abused in the future.
It further said that the current draft also mandates the use of a "balance of probabilities" to determine restrictions on source protection, instead of a three-part test— which is the best practice used in determining restrictions to freedom of expression.
MJA noted that if the current draft as it is, is passed, it would put press freedom at risk in the Maldives and open up opportunities for abuse of these provisions to force journalists to disclose their sources in the future.
The Association called on the parliament and MPs to delay the passage of this bill and take the necessary time to consider the comments submitted by MJA and MMC instead of hastening a bill that will have dire consequences if passed as it is right now.