The Parliament has passed the new Evidence Bill despite concerns from local journalists who say that the bill would curtail press freedom in the country.
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.
In the vote to pass the bill, out of the 60 MPs present at the sitting 52 MP took part in the vote and 50 voted to pass the bill. The Speaker of the Parliament said that only 32 votes were needed to pass the bill.
The bill passed after journalists had protested outside the parliament building voicing concerns over the current state of the bill.
MJA had said before 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.