Prime Minister Robert Abela has confirmed he is consulting with the family of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia over an upcoming bill to clamp down on so-called SLAPP lawsuits.
“As I have already stated publicly, work took place in recent months to draft ‘anti-SLAPP’ legislation with the aim of granting more protection to journalists,” Abela said in response to a parliamentary question by PN MP Claudette Buttigieg.
“This process, which is taking place in consultation with the Institute of Maltese Journalists, the Caruana Galizia family and international institutions, is at an advanced stage and will result in a law being presented in Parliament as soon as possible.”
“This step will precede a wider reform of the sector that will be recommended by representatives of journalists and other experts.”
“Through this unprecedented work, the government will be in a position to implement more reforms to strengthen the profession in a way previous administrations never did.”
Journalists have long been calling for protection from SLAPP, lawsuits filed in jurisdictions that would burden them with unaffordable legal defences.
Several journalists in Malta have faced SLAPP lawsuits or threats of SLAPP lawsuits in recent years, including Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was sued in Arizona by Pilatus Bank for millions in damages five months before her murder.
A public inquiry board which found the state culpable of creating a culture of impunity that facilitated Caruana Galizia’s murder recently proposed anti-SLAPP legislation among several recommendations to help the media industry.
Nationalist MPs Jason Azzopardi, Robert Cutajar and David Agius proposed a private members’ bill to combat SLAPP back in 2018 but it has yet to be discussed in Parliament.Meanwhile, PN MEP
Roberta Metsola and other MEPs have proposed an EU-wide fund to help victims of abusive lawsuits as part of a wider European framework to combat SLAPP lawsuits.
Last June, Robert Abela confirmed the government is looking into the possibility of granting journalists financial assistance to combat lawsuits overseas.
Cover Photo: Left: Prime Minister Robert Abela, Right: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew Caruana Galizia
Do you agree with the introduction of anti-SLAPP legislation?