Sunday

11th Apr 2021

Malta anger over plans for web crackdown

  • Maltese bloggers may be required to register (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

A draft bill which aims to regulate online news in Malta has worried opposition politicians and added a motive for several thousands of Maltese to take to the streets on Sunday (19 February).

A protest organised by opposition centre-right Nationalist Party was against the government's handling of the Panama Papers scandal, but also against a proposed legislation which opposition leader Simon Busuttil said would be “the beginning of the end of freedom of expression on the internet”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The draft bill, proposed last week, would update Malta's defamation and libel laws. But its broad definitions have given rise to fear that ordinary citizens would be required to register before being able to express their views online.

Newspapers and broadcasters in Malta have been required to register with the government since 1975. Requiring news websites to also do that is “an extension of what exists today”, a statement by the Maltese ministry of Justice said.

In an editorial, the Malta Independent newspaper said it had no problem registering for its news website too.

“The problem arises when it comes to the countless other websites operated by Maltese nationals or companies or blogs that most of the time do not delve into news, but which may do so from time to time," the editorial said.

“For such people, the definition in the law is far too vague and should the law as it stands come into force, many people out there will be forced to think twice before commenting on current affairs of any sort.”

The draft law defined editors as “any person responsible for the publication of information, ideas or images on a website”, and websites as “any web-based news service or other web-based service relating to news or current affairs that operates from Malta or in respect of which editorial decisions are taken in Malta”.

That could include social media and personal blogs.

The text said that anyone who is an editor should within 10 days of becoming an editor provide the relevant Maltese authority with “his name and surname, a legally valid identification document number, age and place of residence”, and inform the authority of place of residence within ten days of moving.

“This is a restriction on Internet freedom and a future Nationalist government will repeal it if it gets approved by parliament," Busuttil told protesters in Valletta on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Malta, which holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU until mid-2017, will hold elections next year.

It was ranked 46th by Reporters without Borders on its World Press Freedom Index. It received a 96 percent score in the Freedom House ranking and the press freedom status label “free”.

Malta rejects tax haven accusations

Finance minister Scicluna said that a report published by Green MEPs was "unfair" and that Malta had "nothing to hide".

Some EU states face delays in 5G preparation

National governments secured a one-year extension for publishing plans to make radio frequencies available for mobile communications - but some were nevertheless unable to meet the deadline.

Exclusive

EU official proposed covering up wifi portal flaw

Director of Electronic Communications Networks and Services Anthony Whelan says in an internal document that he wanted to eliminate "possible criticisms" and "marginalise questions".

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

The success of the new general data protection regulation (GDPR) will depend on whether data protection authorities enforce the new rules - which, in turn, will be at least partly determined by how many people they employ.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us