Culture Minister Owen Bonnici and Minister of Interior Byron Camilleri have argued that Malta’s Electronic Communications Act can be used to sue people in court over insults. Responding to a question by a MaltaToday journalist, Owen Bonnici said that his question was “very impertinent”. Karl Azzopardi was questioning Bonnici whether the new legal amendment which will decriminalise insults by artists is discriminatory – of course, it is.
So, basically, this is a nothing burger again by the Labour Party where they claim victory and historic precedents and all that when they are actually consolidating what is already bad in the system. There is also some confusion here. The Electronic Communications Act is already being abused in civil cases other than by Gordon Manche and it should not be used to sue people for insults. If this is the government’s interpretation then surely the law is wrong and should be changed. The Electronic Communications Act supposedly covers online threats, and it should not be used as a replacement for criminal libel.
Malta is taking steps backward with regard to freedom of speech with how the authorities are interpreting and applying laws. The Labour Party is also planning to introduce “anti-bullying laws” and a very authoritarian reform of the press. What’s happening today is much worse than the Lawrence Gonzi days because we are heading slowly to authoritarianism.