The Opposition Coalition has raised serious concerns over the controversial “Evidence Bill” which forces journalists and media outlets to disclose their sources to the state authorities.
The parliament moved to pass the bill last Thursday despite calls from journalists not to pass the bill in its current form. International organizations have now also expressed their concerns about the bill which media experts say would curtail the freedom of press in the Maldives.
In a statement, the Progressive Congress Coalition said that the bill is undermining the very essence of the fourth estate and restricting Article 28 of the Constitution of the Maldives which guarantees the freedom of the press.
It noted that after the Attorney general and the ruling party repeatedly assured that the concerns of the fourth estate would be addressed prior to passing the bill, they have ultimately backtracked on their promises and passed the draconian bill which is set to severely undermine the rights of the press and the people’s right to freedom of expression.
The opposition said that by forcing journalists to disclose their sources, the bill will directly obstruct and deter individuals from whistleblowing on the rampant corruption within the current administration thereby contributing to the decline in the fourth estate’s capacity to hold the government accountable.
It pointed out that the “Evidence Bill” is the latest tool by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his regime to repress the rights of the people and silence the voice of dissent as they continue to subvert democracy and the fundamental rights of the people.
The opposition called on the civil society to closely monitor the increasingly undemocratic practices adopted by the regime and to hold the government accountable for the rapid backsliding in democracy.
It further reaffirmed its commitment to enhancing democracy and the rights of the fourth estate, assuring the people that the Progressive Congress Coalition will seek all avenues to repeal the repressive “Evidence Bill”.
The Opposition called on the ruling party and the government to immediately repeal the “Evidence Bill” and to engage in multi-party dialogue to restore the democratic norms of the country.