The Private Member’s Bill presented in Parliament this week to prohibit expensive international lawsuits against Maltese journalists has the objective “to protect freedom of speech” and ensure that SLAPP lawsuits are “not used as a weapon to shut people up,” PN leader Adrian Delia told The Shift News.
Pointing out that government did “absolutely nothing” on previous proposals presented in Parliament to protect journalists, Delia said the Opposition is now pushing for such legislation by virtue of a Private Member’s Bill.
“Freedom of speech is something that, in principle, we all believe in hopefully,” Delia said.
The bill presented in Parliament on Tuesday by shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi seeks to prohibit the execution in Malta any judgement won abroad, based on anti-SLAPP lawsuit.
SLAPP lawsuits are intended to intimidate and silence investigative journalists and independent media by burdening them with exorbitant legal expenses until they abandon their stance as a result of the threat of financially crippling lawsuits abroad.
Speaking to The Shift News, Delia said the Private Member’s Bill, offers journalists protection of national legislation against the execution of such lawsuits abroad.
Media organisations in Malta have been threatened by SLAPP lawsuits by Pilatus Bank, leading to the removal of articles on the company. Henley and Partners have also threatened The Shift with legal action in the US and the UK in an attempt to get an article on the company removed. The Shift has refused to remove the article and has published the threat received.
Asked whether he expects government to support the bill, Delia said “I don’t know what to expect really of this government.” Despite all its talk in Europe on reforming the Constitution and strengthening the rule of law and freedom of speech, the Labour government “then comes home and does absolutely nothing of all that,” Delia said.
He added that “far worse” is Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s contempt for the damning report and recommendations by MEPs investigating the rule of law in Malta.
“Government not only is not intent in actually executing at least one of the recommendations but actually snubbed it completely and the Prime Minister tells us that he only replies or comments or reacts to comments coming from Prime Ministers.”
Delia added that Muscat should realise that he is “not only breaching law, not only going against fundamental principles but harming our country directly. This has to stop and we need to stop it.”