A private members bill tabled in Parliament by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has still not been discussed by Malta’s MPs, despite it having been tabled for discussion over three years ago.
The Bill was tabled in parliament by Azzopardi together with Nationalist MPs Robert Cutajar and David Agius, following reports that the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank had threatened a number of media houses, as well as Daphne Caruana Galizia with lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions.
“I have gone to Parliament for the 37th time to renew the draft legislation I had presented in January 2018 to protect all journalists in Malta from SLAPP lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions. Both the Muscat and Abela governments have refused,” Azzopardi said in a Facebook post.
Under the regulations governing Parliamentary procedure a Bill must be signed at least once a month in order for it to remain active.
He noted that the court had heard about attempts by Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind of Caruana Galizia’s assassination, to start proceedings against blogger Manuel Delia and Nationalist MEP David Casa this week.
“I am inviting the government, encouraging it even, to take the threat against Maltese journalists seriously, especially after what we heard yesterday,” Azzopardi added. “This is the moment of truth.”
Azzopardi’s proposal seeks to make any defamation judgment against a locally-based journalist to be considered “contrary to the public policy or to the internal public law of Malta”, thus protecting them from vexatious proceedings abroad.
At the time, then Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had said the government had sought advice from several local legal experts as well as British legal firm Bird & Bird, all of whom had suggested that the proposed amendments would violate EU regulations obliging member states to recognise sentences handed down in other member states.
This was however countered by Azzopardi, who pointed out that exceptions could be made to this obligation in cases where sentences ran counter to a country’s public policy.
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