The Malta Independent 24 October 2017, Tuesday

New media law a threat to internet freedom – PN MEPs; government replies

Friday, 17 February 2017, 13:44 Last update: about 8 months ago

PN MEPs David Casa, Roberta Metsola and Therese Comodini Cachia today expressed deep concern about the proposed defamation laws by the Maltese government, describing them as a serious threat to internet freedoms.

“The Labour Government is taking a page out of the play book of autocratic regimes with its proposed new media law that would require the registration of websites and limit protection offered to confidential sources.

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The internet is a crucial medium for the freedom of expression and the government should stay out of it. Requiring websites to be registered with a Government appointed media registrar is a clear attempt by Joseph Muscat’s government to stifle dissent online. This is not the road Malta should be taking.”

Malta is experiencing an unprecedented level of corruption, intimidation and abuse of power with roots at the highest levels of government. This has led citizens and journalists to take to the internet to voice their opposition. 

“These are worrying developments and we will not remain silent. It is time for the Maltese people to stand up and be counted and on Sunday the country will join together and speak out in a national protest in Valletta. Enough,” the PN MEP said. 

In reply, the government said the new media laws are not only opening new doors for journalists’ freedom of expression but they also show that this government is bringing a fresh approach and modernising laws, making them similar to, and in some instances even better than those of other modern democracies.

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.

Newspapers and broadcasting stations have been registering the name of their editor at least since 1975, when the existing press law was enacted, the government said.

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

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

The government said it wanted 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.

 

The new law will strengthen the freedom of journalistic expression, coupled with the removal of criminal libel, broadening the journalistic defences in civil libel lawsuits and the ban on issuance of warrants in libel lawsuits amongst others.

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