The Nationalist Party believes that the bill proposed by the government, flanked by Ministers Owen Bonnici and Evarist Bartolo, is a knee-jerk reaction to the recent events.
PN Deputy Leader Mario de Marco said, in a press conference, quoted from a report published by the Malta IT law association, which said that the proposed defamation laws are "a serious threat to internet freedoms".
De Marco said that this bill will restrict the use of internet by the citizens. "Most important right for journalist is the right of freedom of expression. We cannot understand why we have a government which says it wants to defend the freedom of democracy, but reacts by a bill which restricts freedom of expression," he told the press.
According to the PN, the most controversial issue is the fact that websites will need to be registered with the government, or otherwise face €1,000. He said that the bill defines a website as any web based service relating to news and current affairs. However, he said that news and current affairs carry a wide interpretation.
"What's worrying is that according to the IT association, the only three countries which have this form of obligation are China, Russia and Bangladesh. This is bill which will force websites will be put under government control."
De Marco said that the notion that tradition media and online portals are based on same foundation is incorrect. He said that the government should come up with a law which addresses the new reality.
The PN said that back in 2014, the PN had filed a Private Members Bill to introduce four new liberties on digital rights bill. However, three years on and Parliament has not decided to discuss the bill.
"A year ago, we were all carrying Charlie Hebdo placards, not because we necessarily believed in their way of writing, but because we take freedom of expression very seriously," he added while insisting that freedom of expression, in no way, can be restricted.
PN MP Clyde Puli said that this bill has to be taken into context. "Let's not forget that this law came about after a Minister filed a garnishee order against a journalist and after a private members bill filed by the Opposition to abolish precautionary warrant."
Nationalist MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, said that when you compare this bill with the current press act, it seems clear that it does not protect the journalists, but focuses on the limitations on the freedom of expression.
"The aim of the bill is not to widen freedom of expression but to limit it. This bill is not in favour of the citizen, it's in favour of the power of the state."