The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after it was revealed that the Maltese government is currently debating a new bill, which is set to repeal the country´s criminal libel law.
During 2017, several media outlets in the country became targets of the strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP). These lawsuits aim to exhaust the media outlets through lengthy legal proceedings and high costs of legislative services. By depleting finances from media, individual companies and the government can censor and silence them more easily.
Investigative media project The Shift was threatened with a lawsuit of this sort after having published a letter they received from a company that manages Malta’s cash-for-citizenship scheme. The Shift’s co-founders Caroline Muscat and Jurgen Balzan published a message from a company, which demanded that the outlet remove an article revealing the company´s involvement in a recent diplomatic passport scandal. The company denied its attachment to the case and threated legal action in the UK and USA if the article was not removed.
According to Caroline Muscat, all SLAPPs aimed against outlets in Malta come from two companies.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.