Maldives President Signs RTI Bill into Law; 99th in World

17 January 2014

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Jan. 11 signed into the Right to Information Act Transparency Maldives hailed the ratification of the act as “major step forward for good governance and transparency.” The parliament approved the bill (in Dhivehi) in December. (See previous report.)

The Maldives is the 99th country in the world to have a right to information regime. (See list of countries with access laws.)

Within six months, the president is mandated to appoint a Commissioner of Information to a five-year term. Government agencies are obliged to appoint information officers. The commissioner has the power enforce a fine of up to $324 on information officers who deliberately refuse access to information and a fine of $1,621 on any individual who destroys requested information, obstructs a public authority or the Information Officer.

The act also provides protection to whistleblowers publishing information regarding corruption or breach of the law.

Under the act, requests are to be answered in 21 days, or 48 hour if the information is relevant to an individual’s liberty or protection of a person’s life.

“The state is not required to disclose any information designated confidential by law, or information that could cause legal action against the government for breach of confidence, or which could prevent future communication of such information to the government,” according to a Minivan News summary.

“Furthermore, the state is not required to disclose information which could have an adverse impact on the government’s ability to manage or administer the economy or  information whose premature disclosure could put a person at an unfair advantage or disadvantage,” the summary says. “Neither is the government obliged to reveal information that harms the immunities of the parliament and the courts, information of a closed trial, personal or judicial records which could harm the dignity of a child below 18 years, and information regarding victims of sexual abuse,” according to the summary.

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