PN launches public consultation on media reform

Nationalist Party says Bills presented by government show it plans to continue its efforts in silencing freedom of expression and the right to information

File photo
File photo

The Nationalist Party has launched a public consultation on government’s proposed media reform.

“The Bills presented by government were drawn up secretly, and show government plans to continue its efforts in silencing freedom of expression and the right to information,” PN spokesperson for justice Karol Aquilina said in a statement.

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.” 

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

The proposed laws will request Parliament to recognise the constitutional protection of media sources, a long-held sacred tenet of journalism. However, government's final proposal only includes this in one chapter of the Constitution that is not enforceable at law. 

The Constitution will also recognise the Fourth Estate in its exercise of free journalism, to protect freedom of expression. There will be redress of journalists for bodily harm, recognised as an aggravated crime in the Criminal Code, but none for threats and harassments.

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

“What the government is refusing to do, will be done by the PN,” the statement issued by the party on Monday read.

The PN said it will be launching a public consultation, and will be meeting with all sectors involved in media, with journalists’ representatives, with journalists themselves and with civil society in general.

It said the public consultation will lead to needed amendments so that legislation in the country offers better protection to the media and journalists, with the aim of strengthening the access to information in Malta.

Those interested in participating in the public consultation can send their suggestions through email to [email protected] or by post to the address: Konsultazzjoni dwar il-Midja – Dar Ċentrali P.N., Triq Herbert Ganado, Tal-Pietà PTA 1450.