Malta changes media laws as EU deputies express ‘serious concerns’

Malta on Map. [Photo credit: Operation World]

Members of the European parliament have adopted with an overwhelming majority a resolution that raises “serious concerns” about the rule of law in Malta on Wednesday as the country announced an overhaul of its libel laws to better protect journalists.

EU lawmakers from various political groups voted in favour of a text that states that the chamber has also serious concerns regarding `democracy and fundamental rights’.

These also include freedom of the media, the independence of the police and the judiciary.

The resolution was prompted by the assassination of Maltese journalist, Daphne Galizia, a 53-year-old newspaper columnist and vocal government critic, who was killed by a car bomb just metres from her home in Malta on Oct. 16.

A total of 466 deputies voted in favour of the resolution, 49 against and 167 abstained during the vote.

The lawmakers are calling on the European Commission to “establish a dialogue with the Maltese government regarding the functioning of the rule of law in Malta and to ensure respect for European values.”

The resolution also says that “several serious allegations of corruption and breach of anti-money laundering and banking supervision obligations have not been investigated by the police in Malta,” representing “a threat to the rule of law.”

Malta has been a member of the EU since 2004.

Meanwhile, the Maltese government announced a radical overhaul of Malta’s libel laws intended to give more protection to journalists.

The new law will remove criminal libel and remove the obligation on editors to register with the government press registrar, among other changes.

An initial draft of the bill was presented last February and led to a storm of controversy, as it would have obliged editors of online publications to register themselves.

That proposal has now been ditched.

The new bill prohibits the issue of precautionary warrants in defamation cases, meaning warrants, such as that sought earlier this year by Economy Minister, Chris Cardona, against Caruana Galizia, will no longer be permitted.

(Reuters/NAN)


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