Aug 2 (NIA) – The Maldives government, on Tuesday, rejected a joint statement released by the US, EU, UK, Germany, Norway and Netherlands over a draft defamation bill which is being debated in the Maldives parliament.
The Maldives said that concerns raised by these countries were ‘fallacious and ill-informed’ and while the island nation welcomed the opportunity to engage with its international partners, it however expected those partners to be constructive and responsible in their actions.
A strongly worded joint statement issued Sunday by the five embassies and the EU delegation to the Maldives warned that passing the bill would be a “serious setback for freedom of speech in the Maldives.” The Embassies of Canada and Australia also expressed concerns over the Bill on Monday.
The Maldives Foreign Ministry however said that the Maldivian government “rejects” the statement and insisted that the draft legislation accepted by the ruling party-dominated parliament “does not seek to criminalise free speech.”
“It instead seeks to provide a layer of protection for those who may fall victim to scurrilous and defamatory articles and to ensure that such comment does not impact upon issues of religious sentiment or national security,” the Ministry said.
“The Government of Maldives appreciates the interests that its friends and partners take in the Maldives, and wishes to request on all who wish to issue commentaries on what takes place in the Maldives, to return to facts and exercise objectivity. The Government is concerned that if such commentaries do not reflect all the facts surrounding the issue, it can be a source of misinformation.”
Local media reports said that after the revised defamation bill was submitted last month without addressing concerns raised by the media, a group of journalists launched a campaign warning that the proposed law would be the death knell of press freedom in the Maldives.
The bill prescribes fines of up to MVR2 million (US$130,000) and a jail term of up to six months for those unable to pay the fine.
It also authorises the state’s media regulatory bodies to take action against media organisations without conducting an inquiry.