IGM should quit committee without public consultation on media reform, say journalists

Media Reform Initiative says that the ongoing calls for public consultation indicates that the proposed reforms were defective and do not effectively protect journalists

The Media Reform Initiative is made up of activists working for the reform of Malta’s media system
The Media Reform Initiative is made up of activists working for the reform of Malta’s media system

Activists from Media Reform Initiative joined the call for the government to launch a public consultation on the proposed media reform and called on the Institute of Maltese Journalists to drop out of the government-appointed media committee of experts if this did not happen.

MRI said that the ongoing support for public consultation on the proposed media reform indicated that the reform was full of defects and did not effectively protect journalists.

“These demands for public consultation also show that no one is believing government when it says that it has already carried out a public consultation,” MRI said.

Justice Minister Jonathan Attard unveiled three Bills that will be presented to the House, after receiving feedback from a government-appointed committee to analyse the state of journalism in Malta.

In a letter signed by over 100 editors, journalists, academics, artists and others, Prime Minister Robert Abela was asked “to immediately publish the advice you have already received from the experts whom you appointed and, before you present any legal proposals to Parliament, to publish the government’s intentions for open and effective public consultation.” 

It highlighted how the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, the international press freedom organisations, the European Centre for Press Media Freedom asked that the reform conforms with international standards.

An alert has also been raised on the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, which is part of the Council of Europe’s initiative against misinformation and threats towards independent media.

MRI said that during a public consultation meeting organised by the Institute of Maltese Journalists on Thursday evening, those present supported the demand for a public consultation on the reform.

“It was apparent during the meeting that the Government is ignoring the most important of the recommendations made by the Committee of Experts, which government itself appointed,” MRI said.

Amongst these proposals is the recommendation that journalism be entrenched in the Constitution as a pillar of democracy in that chapter which gives persons the right to claim their rights before a court.

“It was also apparent during the meeting that the government’s proposals to protect journalists and activists from SLAPP suits do not even meet the minimum standards required by the European Commission’s proposed directive on this subject.”

It added that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe experts had already twice warned the government that its proposals were problematic.

“This takes on an even more serious character when one considers that Malta is the European country with the highest per capita cases of abusive attacks  through SLAPP suits, which attacks burden journalists further in their work.”

MRI said that during the meeting, it expressed full support for IGM’s work in calling for public consultation. It said that if this did not happen, IGM should no longer form part of the government-appointed committee of experts.

The Media Reform Initiative is made up of activists working for the reform of Malta’s media system. The members are Agius Monique, Comodini Cachia Therese, Fr Joe Borg, Delia Emanuel and Fenech Natalino.