The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Jason Azzopardi slams new Media Defamation Bill, outlines breaches in ECHR

Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 10:04 Last update: about 3 years ago

Providing for the continuation of ongoing criminal libel proceedings despite its repeal in the proposed media defamation law is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, shadow minister for home affairs Jason Azzopardi said yesterday evening in Parliament.

The government has proposed a new media defamation bill, which would see the maximum libel damages increase from €11,700 to €20,000, the repeal of precautionary warrant of seizure against the press for both assets and income, requires all news and current affairs websites operating from Malta to register with a government registry and removes criminal libel, among other measures.

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Dr Azzopardi’s comments were made in Parliament while the House was debating the second reading of the Budget Measures Implementation Bill.

He called the proposed bill a “thread to freedom of expression”. With regards the clause in the proposed Bill that outlines the continuation of ongoing criminal libel cases, despite a separate proposition for criminal libel to be scrapped altogether, Dr Azzopardi said this was “a legal heresy that even a freshman law student would know to avoid”.

Reference was made to a European Court of Human Rights ruling made in 2011, which ruled that Italy was in breach of human rights when it made an attempt to include a similar legal provision in its own legislation.

Dr Azzopardi remarked that despite the government paying of hundreds of thousands of euro per year, this fact seemed to slip by.

He also made reference to the proposition that cases are to be heard by a Judge, which the government explained by saying this was a result of the increase of maximum fines in libel hearings. Dr Azzopardi argued that this could bankrupt smaller media houses and independent journalists because of how long it takes for these cases to be concluded.


 

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