SDM questions recent proposal for ‘Media Registrar’
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Following recent controversies relating to the freedom of journalistic sources and garnishee orders on journalists, SDM – Studenti Demokristjani Maltin has said that it has followed closely proposals by both the Opposition and the Government to make changes relating to Maltese media law. While SDM welcomes proposals by both the Opposition and the Government to remove garnishee orders in libel cases and the removal of criminal libel, SDM said that it cannot remain silent when faced with other proposals aimed at restricting the media by introducing the role of a so-called ‘Media Registrar’.
The bill presented on Tuesday by Education Minister Hon. Evarist Bartolo and Justice Minister Hon. Owen Bonnici, known as the Media and Defamation Bill, aims at changing the current Press Act by amongst others, introducing the role of a ‘Media Registrar’, whose role is being defined as such person as the Prime Minister may, from time to time by notice in the Gazette, designate as Media Registrar for the purposes of this Act’, and who would keep a Media Register. This proposal requires websites, defined 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’ to register with the Media Register or faced up to a €1,000 fine.
SDM said that it notes that just last year, the Maltese Courts have adopted a definition attributed to journalists, which was adopted by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, being ‘any natural or legal person who is regularly or professionally engaged in the collection and dissemination of information to the public via any means of mass communication’, and through this bill, Maltese authorities are unfortunately attacking and undermining the essence of freedom of expression and freedom of the media by restricting not only the press, but also any persons in the Maltese jurisdiction who wish to practice their right to freedom of expression by increasing Government control.
SDM concluded by saying, “it is our duty to speak out in favour of democratic values in the best interest of freedom of expression and and to make sure that such rights are not only safeguarded, but also pushed forward by following closely developments on this issue.”