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Parliament asked to appoint committee to hear submissions on draft media laws

Parliament has been urged to appoint a select committee to hear representations by the public on media bills that have been on its agenda for more than a year.

Media Reform Initiative, a group of journalists and opinion writers has written to the Speaker of the House pointing out that three bills on media reform were put on parliament's agenda a year ago without any prior public consultation.

Although the government was asked to withdraw the bills and to initiate a public consultation process, it only stated that it was suspending the enactment of the bills until public consultation was held. A year on, the government had undertaken no public consultation. The prime minister appointed a committee, yet two months after he received the committee’s final report, this report and the draft laws remained a secret.  

"In these circumstances, Parliament is being called upon to fulfil its function of guardian of the right to freedom of expression and guarantee that the drafting of laws related to freedom of expression including media freedom and the security of journalists, is carried out in genuine partnership with civil society,"  the group said. 

The group therefore suggested the appointment of a select committee with a mandate to hear public testimony and contributions from organisations which represent journalists, media freedom watchdog organisations and other civil society representatives, before legislation went ahead. 

In its letter the group referred to a resolution by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in 2020 on threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe, which after making specific recommendations to Malta, also “calls on national parliaments to ensure that governments act in full respect of the Council of Europe standards concerning the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom and the safety of journalists.

The resolution stated that: “National parliaments must be the guardians of this right and ensure full engagement of the State apparatus at all levels: political, legislative, judicial, law enforcement and educational. In this connection, national parliaments should take more account of the Council of Europe’s work and in particular bring the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly’s reports and resolutions to the attention of their relevant committees, and build on these texts when drafting legislation that is relevant for media freedom and the safety of journalists."

Read the letter in full by clicking on the pdf link below.