The Malta Independent 7 June 2023, Wednesday
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OSCE Representative on media freedom calls for public discussions on Malta’s draft media legislation

Tuesday, 1 March 2022, 19:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) Teresa Ribeiro presented a legal analysis of two Maltese draft laws on media, the OSCE said in a statement.

"This analysis is written by an independent international media expert and concerns Malta's Bill of the Act: to amend the Constitution and various other laws to strengthen the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy and to implement various measures for the protection of the media and of journalists' and of the Bill: 'to provide for the establishment of structures for the protection of democratic society, including the protection of journalists, other persons with a role in the media and in non-governmental organisations and persons in public life".

Next to outlining international standards on freedom of expression and freedom of information and those particularly referring to libel and insult, safety of journalists, Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPPs), and relevant private international law provisions, the analysis includes an overview of the proposed legislation, particularly focusing on its compliance with international and OSCE freedom of expression standards, the OSCE said. "It presents recommendations for improvement."

Noting that the draft amendments contain a series of relevant reforms regarding the protection of the right to freedom of expression in the Constitution of Malta, the analysis recommends to include the right to seek information as a basic component of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information. Further, it recommends to adjust the language of the constitutional provision on hate speech to the terms and criteria used by international law and other relevant international documents in this area.

"As for reforms in the Media and Defamation Act, and regarding the liability of editors and publishers in cases of death of the original author, a safeguard must be introduced to guarantee that proceedings can only be pursued when legal liability can properly and fairly be established and determined in the absence of the said journalist. It is also recommended that, in case of death of both author and editor, publishers may only be held liable on a subsidiary basis and when the responsibility of the former persons has already been established in a fair trial. The analysis recommends to eliminate provisions regarding the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements in cases of defamation and replace them with a comprehensive anti-SLAPP legal regime containing the provisions and safeguards already recommended by international organizations."

The analysis also recommends the adoption of a series of additional legal instruments and measures to reinforce prevention and prosecution mechanisms with regards to the protection of journalists and avoiding impunity.

The Representative highlighted the importance of public discussions of the draft amendments: "I encourage the Maltese authorities to carefully review this legal analysis and to take into account its recommendations. Transparent consultations with the Committee of Media Experts, civil society, media and other national and international key actors must be ensured prior to the discussion and adoption of this important legislation by the Parliament. It is paramount that the upcoming legal reforms provide better protections to journalists online and offline, pave the way for free access to government-held information and create an environment conducive to safe and independent journalism in Malta."

The full version of the legal analysis can be found here:

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. 

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