Council of Europe issues ‘serious threats to media freedom alert’ over government’s rushed anti-SLAPP laws

Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform concerned ‘over moves to pass anti-SLAPP legislation as part of a media reform package without adequate scrutiny from journalists and civil society’


The Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform has issued a ‘serious threats to media freedom alert’ on Malta over the government’s rush through parliament of its draft anti-SLAPP legislation without “adequate scrutiny” and that ‘international standards are not being reflected.

In an alert published on Friday, ‘Media freedom organisations concerned over moves to pass anti-SLAPP legislation without adequate scrutiny’, the Platform warned, “The latest proposals under discussion do not appear to incorporate recommendations to strengthen the legislation and reflect international standards issued by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and media freedom organisations following consultations pursuant to the public inquiry report.”

Of the three bills concerning media reform and the protection of journalists that were given a surprise parliamentary debut on Tuesday, the alert specifically concerns the anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation provisions, which, like the rest of the legislation, is not being subjected to public scrutiny. It also noted how the draft bills have yet to be published on parliament’s official website.

The Council of Europe alert referred to the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) having expressed “concerns over moves to pass anti-SLAPP legislation as part of a media reform package without adequate scrutiny from journalists and civil society”.

The COE also highlights how its Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović took the somewhat extraordinary step on Thursday of publishing an exchange of letters with Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Friday’s Level 2 alert covers a variety of media threats pertaining to Malta, amongst which are “acts having chilling effects on media freedom including restrictive legislation encroaching on media freedom and; censorship, interference with editorial freedom”.

The alert quoted from the Human Rights Commissioner’s statement accompanying her publication on Thursday of the exchange of correspondence with the Prime Minister: “The Maltese authorities must ensure that legislative work launched pursuant to the public inquiry report into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia complies with international standards and is fully open to public scrutiny and participation”.

In that letter, she referred to The Shift’s dozens of freedom of information battles, saying, “learned that 40 governmental entities have recently lodged a series of appeals against decisions made by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner in favour of freedom of information requests made by The Shift News.

“Although the judicial process is still ongoing, the appeals [against The Shift’s Freedom of Information requests] already send a chilling message to media actors and the Maltese people at large that the government is ready to vigorously counter efforts to place official information under public scrutiny”.

She said, “I reiterate my recommendation to avoid taking measures that may impinge on media freedom and the public’s right to know.

“Instead, I call on you and all Maltese authorities to ensure that journalists and the public have access to accurate and timely information and that exceptions to the rule of public disclosure are interpreted and applied narrowly.”


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1 month ago

Only criminals hide their loot. There is nothing else to say.
Murderers hide their victims.
Their protectors leave no stone unturned to remove all evidence.
The investigators take their time until all stones have been unturned and then declare that there is no evidence to prove guilt in a court of justice.
Court investigations end up locked up and the authority hide behind the ” I know nothing” monkey talk.
The fact is that Government boards are being made to sign Non Disclosure Agreements when appointed. Listen to the PAC . All board members remember nothing.

1 month ago

they either shut your mouth or put a bomb in your car

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