Attard says government committed to EU SLAPP Directive as it SLAPPs The Shift

Without so much as a trace of irony, Justice Minister Jonathan Attard has told his European counterparts that Malta takes a strong position in favour of adequate safeguards for journalists “from judicial proceedings that are manifestly unfounded or abusive”.

The government even issued a press release through the Department of Information titled ‘Malta remains committed to the European anti-SLAPP directive’ on Saturday afternoon.

This comes as the government is in the midst of SLAPPing The Shift with 40 lawsuits contesting its denial of freedom of information requests. In an unprecedented move, it is even taking each and every case to the Court of Appeals after refusing rulings to release the information from Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal Chair Anna Mallia and Information and Data Protection Commissioner Ian Deguara who ordered the release of information in the public interest.

But Attard, who was at the EU Council of Justice Ministers meeting on Thursday and Friday “reiterated” Malta’s “technical and political support for the [EU] anti-SLAPP Directive and its appeal against the choice of a restrictive approach because such an approach undermines the efficiency and effectiveness of the future Directive”.

Referring to the debacle of the draft law to protect journalists that he attempted to rush through Parliament without any proper consultation being undertaken, a move that drew widespread criticism not only from the majority of the Maltese press but internationally as well from the likes of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and major international press organisations.

And despite the government’s multiple legal actions against The Shift, in defiance of its own freedom of information laws and which are tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) aimed at financially crippling the newsroom, Attard told his fellow EU justice ministers that the draft law is intended “to safeguard journalists and other members of the media from SLAPP measures”.

But the government using two lawyers at a time for each appeal reinforces the SLAPP aspect of the government’s siege mentality approach to its own freedom of information legislation since expenses are also naturally being requested in each and every case being filed against The Shift.

Attard said in Brussels that once the government-appointed so-called committee of media experts, whose appointment was controversial and in any case the government ignored its main recommendations and drafted its own Bill. According to Attard, this “completes the process of consultation” and the government will move ahead with the legislative process.

The justice minister’s comments on SLAPPs also come after the European Parliament passed a resolution in October calling on the Maltese government to immediately withdraw the 40 freedom of information appeals lodged against The Shift, stating that the appeals “could send a chilling message to media actors and citizens”.

Included in the call for the government to withdraw the multiple FOI appeals is MEPs’ concern that obstacles to media freedom and pluralism persist, especially regarding the Maltese government’s handling of access to information and the potentially discriminatory funding of media outlets.

It also comes in the wake of a caustic statement in which the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner took the step of publishing communications between herself and Prime Minister Robert Abela, in which she called on the government to drop the 40 cases.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Robert Abela at the end of September, Commissioner Dunja Mijatović did not mince her words when she said: “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”.


Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

Could it be that Justice Minister Jonathan Attard is just a comedian?

1 month ago
Reply to  KLAUS

He tries but is absolutely not fit for purpose.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

When is the EU going to realise that our people in government are just hypocrites. They say one thing and do exactly the opposite.

1 month ago
Reply to  saviour mamo


And not all ignored that fact.
The air for the corrupt will be thiner and thiner every day.

We remember the last meeting with Joseph Muscat at the EU:
Everyone ignored him, he was air for everyone.

The PL was forced to used pictures from the year before to show him as a good politician. So awful.

1 month ago

Where I come from he would be know as a gobshite!

1 month ago

There are two types of commitments .
Committed to do.
Committed NOT to do.
This is on the same reversed meanings like
Transparency : Cannot be seen
Meritocracy : Labour supporting law breakers

Related Stories

Police Commissioner will not explain drug trafficker’s security guard licence
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa is refusing to explain how
PM still ‘tolerating’ predecessor Muscat’s occupation of Sa Maison property
Three years after assuming power at Castille, Prime Minister

Our Awards and Media Partners

Award logo Award logo Award logo