Only one Maltese MP voted at a recent debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on encouraging European countries to legislate against SLAPP. That was Labour MP Cressida Galea who voted in favour of the adoption of the resolution.

She also gave a speech on the subject at the assembly reported, presumably faithfully, by Labour’s One TV.

Confusingly One TV say the speech of Galea was given at the European Parliament. The Council of Europe is indeed meeting in the European Parliament building because the Council’s edifice is undergoing repairs. But it should be clear the two institutions are different.

Still, watch the otherwise correct report of her speech.

Now to correct some other errors.

The changes to the Media and Defamation Act that Cressida Galea is speaking about did not happen “in the last four months” as the reporter claims. Those changes are from 2018. There have been no changes in the last 4 months. There indeed have been no changes in the last 6 years, despite many promises made by the government.

The “new legislation presented to Parliament” that she speaks about has been on Parliament’s agenda since October 2022. She describes that law as based on “78% of the recommendations made by a committee of experts”. Quite how you can measure recommendations in percentages like they were sloshing liquid in a fuel tank I don’t really understand.

But the committee of experts had merely reacted to a draft written by Robert Abela on which it was not allowed to consult anyone. The government realised they had to drop the whole plan because everyone thought it was shit.

They then opened “another round of consultations” (quoting Cressida Galea again here). The consultations have not happened. A “white paper” is still in the future and no commitment has been made as to when it would be published.

Here are recommendations adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and supported by Cressida Galea’s vote that are nowhere near Malta yet:

  1. Early dismissal of unfounded, abusive, or disproportionate legal action against journalists and activists;
  2. Shorter and less expensive court proceedings;
  3. It should be for the claimant to prove their action is not a SLAPP;
  4. Claims for compensation are dropped when the journalist or activist dies;
  5. Suing a journalist must normally happen in their country;
  6. Legal, financial, and psychological assistance to journalists when they’re being sued;
  7. Punitive and compensatory damages to be paid to the journalist by the persons bringing SLAPP suits against them;
  8. Fines for people filing SLAPP suits;
  9. Training for judges on SLAPP;
  10. Including fighting SLAPPs in the ethical rules of lawyers.

Cressida Galea did not speak as an MP at the Council of Europe. She is introduced by her party’s TV station as a “government spokesperson”. So, if she voted for these 10 measures it should follow that it is government’s policy to make these policies law.

We’ve been calling for these changes for 6 years. We’ll have to call some more.