Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

A lost battle

The Nationalist Party described Labour’s Bill Media and Defamation Act 2017 as a knee-jerk reaction

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
20 February 2017, 9:37am
By attempting to regulate news on the internet government, just like Chris Cardona, is going where no other democratic government went before. It is not doing so boldly. It is doing so rashly and foolishly.
By attempting to regulate news on the internet government, just like Chris Cardona, is going where no other democratic government went before. It is not doing so boldly. It is doing so rashly and foolishly.
The unfortunate train of events that kick-started this sorry state-of-affairs was the article by Daphne Caruana Galizia wherein she alleged that Minister Chris Cardona visited a brothel while attending to government business in Germany.

The Minister could have done a number of things. The most sensible reaction would have been to immediately summon the press and provide proof of where he was at the time in question. But rather than take this or other sensible route, the Minister decided to take the most unorthodox, up till now untraveled route. Minister Cardona instituted libel proceedings against Ms Caruana Galiza and asked the court to issue a warrant of seizure over Ms Caruana Galizia’s assets. Minister Cardona now has the dubious honour of being the first serving Minister to ask the Court to take this drastic action against a journalist.

The reaction to this draconian move was to be expected. Condemnation from all quarters, including from the Opposition which moved a draft law to remove the possibility of journalists facing such treatment in the future.

Faced with mounting pressure, government had to intervene. Again, rather than take a sensible route, which in this case would have been to ask Minister Cardona to retract the warrant of seizure, government decided to come up with a Bill entitled The Media and Defamation Act 2017.

Whoever came up with this Bill failed to count to ten. In fact, he most probably did not even count to one. A light consultation exercise – perhaps some conversations with some experts and practitioners in the field of journalism and media would have enlightened government to the perils ahead. But caught in this moment of panic, government decided to go it alone and published the Bill.

To be fair, the draft law is proposing a number of measures some of which are non-contentious, I would say even needed. However, mashed with the good points, the Bill includes proposals that seem to be lifted from the manuals of dictators. I am referring in particular to the proposal requiring on-line pages that carry current affairs or news items to register with the government. The regressive requirement is being placed ‘only’ on ‘Maltese’ sites.

By attempting to regulate news on the internet government, just like Chris Cardona, is going where no other democratic government went before. It is not doing so boldly. It is doing so rashly and foolishly.

This is a battle that government cannot and will not win.

If the whole point of this exercise was to deviate attention from brothels, then the plan succeeded. People are now talking on government’s repressive attitude towards free press rather than on brothels. Perhaps someone, somewhere thought that it was less damaging to have people focus on the former rather than on the latter.

Time will tell whether government can navigate itself out of these troubled waters without sustaining further damage. However if it really wants to lift itself out of these murky waters and really move closer to the promised “Best in Europe” levels, it needs to get out of this management by crisis mode. It needs to stop digging itself into even bigger holes. Which is what it seems to be doing best at the moment.

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
DealToday
follow us on facebook