The Institute of Maltese Journalists has requested an “urgent” meeting with the government after a number of Maltese media houses received threatening legal letters and requests for compensation from an international businessman.
“The IĠM has requested an urgent meeting with the government to seek a way forward in how the fourth pillar of democracy may be protected against threats such as SLAPP action,” they said in a statement today.
Their request comes after several Maltese media organisations, including Lovin Malta, received threatening legal letters and requests for compensation by Azeri national and former Electrogas director Turab Musayev.
The IĠM said Maltese newsrooms had “united in their denunciation” of these potentially costly legal battles that stem from Maltese journalists’ reporting.
“These threats are unacceptable in any self-respecting democracy and the IĠM requests an immediate and urgent meeting with the minister to see how democracy can be safeguarded. Government has a unique opportunity to support freedom of speech,” they said.
“SLAPP threats will not intimidate Maltese journalists from continuing to seek truth and justice on a number of corruption cases, the recent high-profile scandals in Malta and the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia,” said IĠM’s incoming President Sylvana Debono.
Debono went on to say that threatening media organisations with international lawsuits was not the correct way to engage with journalists, and said that Malta’s media houses would be fighting back together.
Musayev, Socar Trading’s Head of LNG trading, was named by Reuters as an owner of Cifidex, a company that was involved in a controversial Montenegro wind farm deal with Enemalta.
His name was also cited in court testimonies regarding the public enquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, reporting of which should be protected from legal action.
The legal letters were sent to Times of Malta, MaltaToday, Malta Independent, Lovin Malta and The Shift News between May and June. They were sent by Atkins Thomson lawyers on behalf of Musayev.
SLAPP has emerged as an issue before, but the government has been reluctant to address the issue head-on, twice shooting down a request from PN MP Jason Azzopardi to address the problem.