EU Com­mis­sion says no le­gal ob­sta­cle to in­tro­duce Anti-SLAPP leg­is­la­tion in Malta

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

In re­ply to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion sub­mit­ted by Na­tion­al­ist MEP David Casa, Com­mis­sioner Vera Jourová stated it is pos­si­ble to pre­vent the en­force­ment of SLAPP judg­ments in other ju­ris­dic­tions on the ba­sis of pub­lic pol­icy, an EPP state­ment read.

The po­si­tion of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, ac­cord­ing to the EPP, would con­trast with that of the Mal­tese gov­ern­ment that re­jected an Anti-SLAPP amend­ment pro­posed by PN MP Ja­son Az­zopardi to the new me­dia bill on the ba­sis of in­com­pat­i­bil­ity with EU law.

David Casa said yes­ter­day: “It is clear that there is noth­ing in EU law that pre­cludes mea­sures to pro­tect jour­nal­ists from these abu­sive prac­tices in na­tional leg­is­la­tion”.

The Com­mis­sion has stated, the EPP said:

a. An EU mem­ber state has a right to leg­is­late against SLAPP originating in a ju­ris­dic­tion out­side the EU; and

b. That EU mem­ber states have a right to pro­tect their na­tion­als against SLAPP originating from within the EU as long as it is done in good faith and in line with de­clared pub­lic pol­icy.

A Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Party state­ment quoted David Casa as say­ing: “The abysmal rea­son­ing pro­vided by Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici to jus­tify the de­ci­sion not leg­is­late to pro­tect Mal­tese jour­nal­ists must be un­der­stood in the con­text of his com­plic­ity to si­lence Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia through SLAPP. To­day, the Com­mis­sion has ef­fec­tively rub­bished the po­si­tion taken by the Mal­tese gov­ern­ment”.

A strate­gic law­suit against pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion (SLAPP) is a law­suit that is in­tended to cen­sor, in­tim­i­date, and si­lence crit­ics by bur­den­ing them with the cost of a le­gal de­fence un­til they aban­don their crit­i­cism or op­po­si­tion.

Such law­suits have been made il­le­gal in many ju­ris­dic­tions on the grounds that they im­pede free­dom of speech.

Gov­ern­ment ar­gues to the con­trary

In a state­ment, the gov­ern­ment ar­gued to the con­trary, say­ing that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice Věra Jourová’s re­sponse “con­firmed the le­gal po­si­tion of the Mal­tese Gov­ern­ment that, ‘Judg­ments de­liv­ered from a court of an­other EU mem­ber state on the ba­sis of ju­ris­dic­tional rea­sons ac­cord­ing to Reg­u­la­tion 1215/2012 are to be recog­nised and en­forced in the re­quested mem­ber state’”.

“Fur­ther­more, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion stated that, ‘the reg­u­la­tion pro­vides for a pos­si­bil­ity to refuse recog­ni­tion of the en­force­ment of a judg­ment on the grounds that it would be man­i­festly con­trary to pub­lic or­der.

“How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the case law of the EU Court of Jus­tice, the pub­lic or­der ex­cep­tion is in­ter­preted re­stric­tively.

“The Gov­ern­ment also notes that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion con­firmed that there is lack of com­pe­tence within the Union to har­monise laws on defama­tion and to address SLAPP law­suits and at the same time that, ‘Mem­ber states are free to in­tro­duce such leg­is­la­tion at na­tional level’, In fact, the Mal­tese Gov­ern­ment, in its new law on Me­dia Defama­tion in­tro­duced new pro­vi­sions that pre­vent SLAPP law­suits ini­ti­ated in Malta against lo­cal jour­nal­ists.

“How­ever, the Com­mis­sion adds that en­force­ment of judg­ments from other mem­ber states must be recog­nised and en­forced in con­form­ity with the rel­e­vant EU law.”

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