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MaltaToday 12 January 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 12 JANUARY 2022 2 NEWS Committee to examine draft laws proposed to strengthen protection of journalists CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 The committee is composed of Matthew Xuereb, assistant edi- tor of the Times of Malta and is President of the Institute for Maltese Journalists; Kurt San- sone, online editor of MaltaTo- day and is IGM secretary-gen- eral; media expert Prof. Carmen Sammut; former Malta Press Ethics Commission chair and lawyer Kevin Dingli; Mediato- day owner Saviour Balzan; Mal- ta Independent editor-in-chief Neil Camilleri; and criminolo- gist Prof. Saviour Formosa. The Committee of Experts has a one-year term. However, it has been asked to provide feed- back in the next two months on several draft laws prepared by government to strengthen the protection of journalists. Once the committee con- cludes its work, the report will be presented to the Prime Min- ister, who will be bound to table a copy thereof in Parliament in 10 days. One of the first tasks of the committee is to examine the draft legislative amendments prepared by government fol- lowing consultations carried out with key stakeholders. The legislative amendments submitted to the committee in- clude: • an amendment on the protection of journalists against strategic lawsuits against public participa- tion – an anti-SLAPP pro- vision – to minimise any undue financial burden on the defendant, and limit the execution of the judg- ment; • an amendment to the Me- dia and Defamation Act which addresses the sit- uation where an author or an editor dies when civil proceedings for def- amation have been com- menced against the au- thor or editor, or may be commenced or continued against the heirs; • an amendment to the Criminal Code, to provide for an increase in punish- ment for offences against a journalist attributable to the execution of the jour- nalist's functions; • a proposed amendment to provide that in actions for defamation filed in terms of the Media and Defamation Act, payment of Court Registry fees will not be due upon the fil- ing of the reply by the de- fendant but when the final judgment is delivered and only when the case is de- cided against the defend- ant; • an amendment to Article 41 of the Constitution on the right to freedom of expression to ensure that freedom and pluralism of the media and the impor- tance of the role of jour- nalists are respected; • a Committee for the Rec- ommendation of Meas- ures for the Protection of Journalists, Other Media Actors and Persons in Public Life, composed of the Commissioner of Po- lice as Chairperson of the Committee, the Head of the Malta Security Ser- vice and the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta, has already start- ed functioning: this com- mittee's task is to decide on measures to manage identified risks, to prepare a security plan, to provide necessary protection to journalists and other me- dia actors and to provide the necessary protection for persons in public life. The proposed amend- ments will provide a legal basis for the committee. Court shoots down Cassola legal challenge to election gender quota mechanism MATTHEW AGIUS THE court has turned down a constitutional case filed by inde- pendent candidate Arnold Cas- sola against government over the gender corrective mecha- nism approved by parliament last April. Cassola had argued constitu- tional amendments approved in parliament are discriminatory in favour of "PNPL women" and against all other women who are not affiliated to one of the two big parties. "Worse than that, it is an insult jointly concocted by the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party," Cassola had said. The judge dismissed the State Advocate's argument that the action filed by Cassola was a "nebulous" one but Mr Justice Franceso Depasquale, presiding the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, upheld the argument that Cas- sola lacked the juridical interest required. The judge rules that Cassola's action was "based solely on even- tualities and suppositions and is lacking the personal and actual elements which are essential for juridical interest in an action on the basis of Constitution, as well as victim status needed for any action on the basis of the Eu- ropean Convention on Human Rights." The court also agreed with the State Advocate in that the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rights emerging from it cannot be applied to laws of a national nature, such as those governing elections, that Cassola was attempting to impugn. The court rejected all of Casso- la's requests, also ordering him to suffer the costs of the case. The gender quota mechanism cleared third reading last April after 63 MPs voted in favour, while two voted against. The quota means that if the un- der-represented sex comprises less than 40% of all seats after the election outcome is known, the mechanism will kick in to elect a maximum of 12 additional MPs – six on either side of the House. It will only kick in if two parties are elected to parliament and will remain in force for 20 years. Arnold Cassola

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