Saturday

19th Aug 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides