Bonnici insists registration of news sites 'an extension' of what already exists

Justice Minister says registering news sites is about ‘providing public with information’

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has defended the government’s proposed law to have web-based news service or web-based service relating to news or current affairs registered with a Media Registrar.

The Press Act, enacted in 1974, already obliged editors of newspapers and broadcasting services to register with the Press Registry, which falls under the Department of Information. The draft Media and Defamation Act proposes the setting up of a Media Registrar, which would include a registry of news sites.

The move is however being interpreted as “stifling internet freedom”.

Bonnici however argued that the new media laws “opened new doors for journalists’ freedom of expression” – referring to the planned removal of criminal libel.

“Beyond ulterior motives, as is the case with the Opposition leader, the discussion that arose about the registration of news reporting websites, is only about an extension of what exists today where broadcasting stations and media service providers register the name of their editor,” Bonnici said, pointing out that newspapers and broadcasting stations have been registering the name of their editor at least since 1975.

“This step towards more transparency is principally so that the public has access to information, as is the practice in major democracies,” Bonnici insisted.

The minister added that the new media bill was drawn up after consultation with various stakeholders and the government would continue to be open to suggestions and proposals on any part of the law, even during the Parliamentary debate.

“The Government wants to make it clear that the protection of the source of the journalist remains safeguarded regardless of whether the editor registers their name with the Press Registrar.

“Obviously, the criticism of the Opposition leader comes from the fact that he no longer has any arguments to make except to try to cast doubt over a single point being proposed and discussed. This rather than positively contributing to the proposal of a law that is so important for our democracy.”

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