Police briefly detained 19 journalists during a protest launched by journalists and activists demanding press freedom in the country.
The Maldives police also had to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
The Maldives, a South Asian archipelago nation known mainly for its luxury resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. However, democratic gains have been rapidly eroding in recent years.
About 50 protesters rallied near the president's office Sunday against the government's move to criminalize defamation, as well as other measures allegedly taken against the media. President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's ruling party has presented a bill in parliament that proposes heavy fines and jail terms for defamation.