On November 23, 2009, the Republic of Maldives’s parliament decriminalized defamation by amending the Penal Code, thereby abolishing five criminal defamation provisions.
Accordingly, the action for defamation shall not be brought after 1 year has lapsed, or such longer period as the court may direct but not exceeding 2 years, from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
Moreover, a company may also be defamed. Hence, it may bring a defamation action whether or not it has incurred or is likely to incur financial loss.
Under the Defamation Act of 2009, judges can and shall give directions to juries on an award of general damages. The court shall have regard to “all the circumstances of the case” when making an award of general damages. Parties to defamation action may make submissions to the court in relation to the matter of damages.
The following are defenses which can be alleged when prosecuted for defamation:
a) Truth becomes a defense in all material respects;
b) Duty/Interest Defense – a defense to a defamation action that (a) the person(s) receiving the information contained in the statement had a duty/interest to receive it (or believed so on reasonable ground) and (b) the defendant had a corresponding duty/interest to communicate the information to such person(s).
c) Honest Opinion Defense – A defense replacing the defense of fair comment. The opinion must be both based on fact specified or referred to in the opinion and in respect of a matter of public interest which the defendant believed to be true.
d) Offer to Make Amends: must be made in writing before the delivery of the Defense. It means an offer to make and publish a suitable correction and sufficient apology and an offer to pay compensation and costs. In certain circumstances, this will operate as a defense to a defamation action (where a plaintiff rejects the offer). A defendant may also make a ‘qualified offer’ to make amends.
e) Fair and Reasonable Publication on a matter of Public Interest – This is a new media defense. The statement must have been published in good faith in the public interest and for the public benefit. The manner and extent of publication must not exceed that which was reasonably sufficient. The court has significant discretion in terms of accepting this defense – “…in all the circumstances of the case, it was fair and reasonable to publish the statement”.