The Maldives parliament is seen on February 7, 2018. The parliament is considering an amendment that would restrict journalists’ coverage of elections. (AFP)

Maldives parliament considers amendment restricting journalists’ coverage of elections

New York, March 15, 2023—Maldives legislators should reject or revise a recently proposed legislative amendment restricting journalists’ ability to cover elections, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On Monday, March 13, the Maldives parliament opened debate regarding an amendment to the country’s General Elections Act proposed in mid-February by a lawmaker with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, which would allow only journalists working for media outlets registered with the government and approved by the Election Commission to report from voting and vote-counting sites on election days, according to multiple news reports and Ahmed Naaif, secretary-general of the Maldives Journalists Association, who spoke with CPJ by phone.

The proposed amendment would not permit freelance or foreign journalists to report from those sites. The amendment will be reviewed by a parliamentary committee before coming to a vote, Naaif told CPJ.

The Maldives’ next presidential election is set for September.

“The proposed amendment to the Maldives’ General Elections Act restricting journalists’ ability to cover elections will, if enacted, undermine democratic principles and the public’s fundamental right to information,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Maldives lawmakers should reject or revise the proposed amendment in consultation with civil society groups and journalists and do everything in their power to ensure that the press can freely and safely report on the upcoming presidential election in September.”

In a statement, the Maldives Journalists Association and Transparency Maldives, the national chapter of the anti-corruption group Transparency International, also expressed concern over the amendment.

In July 2022, CPJ joined civil society organizations in a statement calling on the Maldives government to repeal or amend a provision of the Evidence Act allowing courts to compel journalists and news organizations to reveal their sources on the basis of vague and overly broad terms of “terrorism” and “national security.” The act came into effect in January 2023, according to news reports and Naaif.

Maldives presidential spokesperson Miuvan Mohamed did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app. The secretariat of the Maldives parliament did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.  

[Editors’ Note: The second, third, and seventh paragraphs were updated with the correct spelling of Naaif’s name.]