It’s been nearly three years since an inquiry set up by the government itself has found the Maltese state responsible for the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. It gave a long list of reasons for that conclusion and for each of those reasons a recommendation which the government has proceeded to ignore.

One of those reasons is the vulnerability journalists are under to be dragged into lawsuits in other countries which they simply cannot afford to respond to. Steward, the corporate bullies whose concession to run three public hospitals in Malta has been rescinded by the courts because of fraud and unlawful collusion, have sued Malta Today’s Matthew Vella in Spain.

The excuse is they’re a Spanish company. But they’re suing a Maltese journalist for writing for a Maltese audience in a Maltese newspaper about their Maltese business and their contract with the Maltese government. When they were making money from a Maltese public sector contract, they didn’t mind flying here and getting their business done in Malta. The decision to sue in Spain is an act of intimidation in and of itself. It’s a punishment to Matthew Vella and his newspaper and a warning to anyone else covering their corrupt activities here.

The owner of the paper, Saviour Balzan, who sat on the so-called Committee of Experts appointed by the government after the Daphne inquiry to make recommendations about changes needed to protect journalists, wrote to the prime minister to tell him about this lawsuit and to urge him to act.

There are ironies in that fact that I won’t go into because what matters here is that we do get a proper anti-SLAPP law which the government has been resisting for nearly 7 years now. They have a bill which Jason Azzopardi had prepared when he was still an MP which is more than a good start. It’s certainly free of all the exceptions and reservations in the government’s draft which, like many of the “reforms” they reluctantly introduced” appear designed to make sure nobody is effectively protected from this corporate bullying.

You must remember the government is a beneficiary of this corporate bullying. The government is even less keen to read Matthew Vella’s reporting than Steward are and if Steward are doing the government the favour of bullying journalists into silence, the government is unlikely to want to stop them.

Echoes of Henley and Partners seeking and obtaining the blessing from “Keith” and “Joe” when Joseph Muscat was Prime Minister to harass Daphne Caruana Galizia with lawsuits in the UK.

We should have learnt then just how dangerous this exposure is. Now that the government has allowed this legal anomaly to persist, more corporate bullies are following in the path of Henley. As Robert Abela follows in the path of Joseph Muscat.

I wish I could be more useful. I wish our efforts over the last several years to push the government to change the law including by introducing anti-SLAPP measures were effective. Instead all I can say is that I truly understand Matthew Vella’s situation because I’ve been in his shoes. And for anyone whose first responsibility is to their children, they’re not comfortable shoes at all. No one should be in Matthew Vella’s situation merely for serving the public and seeking to let them know what has been done with their hospitals.