Malta crowned ‘SLAPP country of the year’ for abusive, deterring lawsuits

Media freedom NGO Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) has awarded Malta the ‘SLAPP Country of the Year’ award for having the most strategic lawsuits against public participation filed per capita.

SLAPPs are abusive legal suits designed to harass, silence and deter journalists and activists from their work.

A CASE analysis of European SLAPPs last year saw Malta top the charts mainly due to the government’s multiple court challenges against 40 freedom of information requests filed by The Shift.

The NGO has now crowned Malta ‘SLAPP Country of the Year’ in a conference hosting the European SLAPP contest for 2024, an initiative designed to expose bad actors and highlight abuse.

In a preamble ahead of Malta’s award, CASE steering committee member Charlie Holt noted how “some countries have proven to be more fertile territory for SLAPPs than others.”

The international conference organised by The Shift in October 2023 focused on the threat of SLAPPs.

The ‘SLAPP Country of the Year’ title was awarded to “those countries which are hosting the most SLAPPs, facilitating the most SLAPPs, sometimes filing the most SLAPPs by themselves.”

On behalf of Malta, journalist and media freedom activist Matthew Caruana Galizia accepted the ‘award’ from Flutura Kasari, legal lead for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom NGO.

Caruana Galizia said the ‘award’ was “not much of a surprise.”

He said, “Even though the government has voiced commitment to doing something to stop the problem, it hasn’t actually done much in the past couple of years.”

“The competition was really stiff, loads of cases in Poland, loads in Croatia,” Caruana Galizia said, highlighting the similarities between ‘troublesome’ EU states.

He noted how since the public inquiry into the assassination of his mother, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, which made recommendations for the protection of journalists, “No changes have been made. We’re still waiting.”

Malta’s SLAPP score of 19.93 per capita towers above Europe’s second-most SLAPPed country, Slovenia, which had just 2.02 SLAPPs per capita last year.

Malta’s SLAPPs per capita more than doubled, from eight cases per capita in 2021, after the government began challenging 40 Information and Data Protection Tribunal rulings in The Shift’s favour before the Court of Appeal.

“This increase is mostly due to 40 Freedom of Information requests filed by the editor of the Maltese online investigative portal The Shift News that were subsequently challenged in court by the government,” CASE said in its report published last year.

Despite The Shift winning all 40 cases at the Tribunal and all 18 cases escalated to court, ministries and government agencies are still refusing to provide the information requested.

During The Shift’s ‘Silencing Freedom. Weaponising the Law’ conference last October, an international panel of experts discussed the need for a proactive approach against SLAPPs.

One of the tactics mentioned was the ‘name and shame’ approach, including initiatives such as a registry of abusive suits, the people filing them, and the lawyers pushing them.

Invited as an expert panel member at the Malta conference, supported by the Justice for Journalists Foundation, Holt noted the importance of “raising awareness and delegitimising [SLAPP’s] use.”


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15 days ago

Nothing changes does it?

Same Prime Minister, same vapid utterances, and people are still happy to vote for everything he stands for??

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