Saturday

19th Oct 2019

Focus

Maltese minister: 'We're not censoring the internet'

  • Malta's justice minister Bonnici (r) has come under fire recently for his governments moves to change the rules around defamation (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Ordinary Maltese citizens posting their opinion on social media or blogs will not be required to register under a proposed new defamation law, says Malta's centre-left minister for justice, Owen Bonnici.

The draft bill riled opposition MPs and was one of the reasons several thousand took to the streets last weekend.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

In an email exchange with EUobserver, Bonnici said the Maltese opposition's arguments that the bill would end freedom of expression online are “a complete untruth”.

Bonnici said that the opposition focused on just one aspect of the bill, which said that the editor of a news website would be required to register online.

“They claimed that in that way, the government will be censoring anything that is written online," he said.

“They also claimed that this provision will take Malta backwards and will end up equating Malta with dictatorial and autocratic regimes. The opposition's arguments are a complete untruth," he added.

Bonnici said that the aim of the bill was, in fact, to “increase freedom of journalistic expression”.

He said that the new bill “merely” proposed to extend a registration requirement that already exists for print and audiovisual media, to online news media.

He added that journalists had welcomed this change.

“I am informed that since the current press law, which was enacted years before the advent of the Internet, is completely silent on online news websites, e-journalists have faced along the years a number of practical problems in order to acquire a press card particularly if their news portal does not own an equivalent traditional medium (such as a sister newspaper or a sister radio station)," he said.

Maltese opposition MPs have said that the definitions of editor and websites would include ordinary citizens.

The draft law defined editors as “any person responsible for the publication of information, ideas or images on a website”. It defined 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”.

Bonnici denied that this definition covered people posting opinions or news on Facebook, Twitter, or blogs.

“This definition caters essentially for news portals and not for ordinary bloggers or users of social media,” he said.

He said it was “not the case and it was never the intention of the government, nor it will be” that private citizens would feel obliged to register.

Bonnici also noted that the draft bill could still be amended.

“The bill still needs to pass through a legislative process in the House of Representatives and any proposals to further tighten the definitions are welcome,” he said.

The Maltese parliament has scheduled to debate the bill at a plenary session on Monday (27 February).

The heated life of Malta's politics

While the smallest EU state has been commended in Brussels for its smooth presidency of the Council, domestic politics are characterised by heated polarisation with accusations and insults often being traded.

European states still top media freedom list

Nordic countries Norway, Sweden and Finland still have the world's most free media, according to Reporters Without Borders, but the overall situation is declining.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

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 MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us