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New Maldives law on parliamentary privilege could impact journalistic freedom

The International Federation of Journalists joins its affiliate the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) and partner in the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), in expressing concern on the recently passed Parliamentary Privileges Act that could soon become law.

The Parliamentary Privileges Act was initially passed by the Maldives parliament, the Majlis in December 2012, but effectively vetoed when President Mohammad Waheed returned it for reconsideration. In recently passing the act afresh by sufficient votes to override the presidential veto, the Majlis has indicated that it intends it to become law without further delay.

The MJA believes that section 17(a) of the act which empowers Parliament or one of its committees to summon anyone to "give witness or to hand over any information" of interest, is too broad in its provisions and could undermine the constitutional protection that journalists currently enjoy.

Under article 28 of the Maldives constitution every citizen enjoys the right to freedom of speech and expression and nobody "shall be compelled to disclose the source of any information that is espoused, disseminated or published by that person."

The IFJ believes that this is a salutary provision of law which makes the Maldives one of the few countries to provide constitutional protection to sources of journalists' information.

The IFJ joins the MJA in asking for a reconsideration of provisions in the Parliamentary Privileges Act which may undermine this valuable protection afforded to journalists and all citizens.

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