Maldives president signs tough law criminalizing defamation

A law that criminalizes defamation and provides for steep fines and jail terms for violators has taken effect in the Maldives with the president signing it despite widespread public outcry.

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Thursday ratified the bill passed by Parliament on Tuesday.

The law criminalizes speech, writing and even sounds that are deemed defamatory, and puts the burden of proof on defendants. Convicted media companies and individual bloggers and social media users can be fined from $1,620 to $130,000.

Journalists working for registered media outlets can be fined up to $ 9,730 in addition to the fine imposed on their employer. Unpaid fines carry a jail term of up to six months.

Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 but has retreated from those gains in recent years.