Media freedom organisations concerned on government’s proposed media reform

Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe Concerned over moves to pass anti-SLAPP legislation without adequate scrutiny

File photo
File photo

The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) has expressed concerns over moves to pass anti-SLAPP legislation as part of a media reform package without adequate scrutiny from journalists and civil society.

On 6 October 2022, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published an exchange of letters with Prime Minister Robert Abela and said the Maltese authorities “must ensure that legislative work launched pursuant to the public inquiry report into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia complies with international standards and is fully open to public scrutiny and participation.”

Justice Minister Jonathan Attard on Tuesday tabled in parliament three Bills dealing with media reforms and the protection of journalists.

One of the Bills deals with constitutional changes, another deals with several amendments to ordinary laws, and the third deals with the set-up of a security committee.

Attard unveiled the three Bills last week, three months after receiving feedback from a government-appointed committee tasked to analyse the state of journalism in Malta.

However, the Bills will not be presented for public consultation, as requested in a letter to the Prime Minister by newspaper editors and journalists.

Government took up almost 90% of recommendations made by the Committee of Experts, however, ignored or diluted some of the more important elements proposed.

Precautionary warrants have been removed from defamation cases and anti-SLAPP measures, which, however, have been criticised for not going far enough.

The Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists said the latest proposals under discussion do not appear to incorporate recommendations to strengthen the legislation and reflect international standards issued by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and media freedom organisations following consultations pursuant to the public inquiry report.

Mijatović went public with that request on Thursday.