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MALTATODAY 10 April 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 10 APRIL 2022 NEWS Become a partner in our forthcoming special feature on home-growing plants and medicinal cannabis Contact Adriana Farrugia on 21382741 420 CALLING KURT SANSONE GOVERNMENT will table the femicide Bill "as early as possi- ble" once the new parliament is convened, Justice Minister Jona- than Attard said. And a Bill criminalising cy- ber abuse, which had raised eyebrows over potential impli- cations on free speech, will be reviewed before being tabled again, he added. The two bills were being debat- ed in parliament last February but had not cleared all stages be- fore the election was called. All laws that were still pending in the last legislature expired when parliament was dissolved. The femicide Bill was pre- sented in the wake of the brutal murder of Paulina Dembska in a public garden in Sliema at the turn of the year. It introduced the concept of femicide in Malta's Criminal Code but the debate was cut short at Second Reading stage when the election was called. "There was a commitment by the Prime Minister during the election campaign that the femi- cide Bill will be presented again and the intention is to do so as early as possible," Attard told MaltaToday. He said the Bill would have to be tabled all over again and pass through the relevant stages of parliament but foresaw no prob- lems given it enjoyed bipartisan support. "The Opposition was on board and I don't see any is- sues with the Bill," Attard said. But while the commitment on the femicide Bill is to move for- ward as quickly as possible, the Justice Minister said the govern- ment will go slow on proposed legislation to criminalise cyber- stalking and cyberbullying. The law on cyber abuse had reached the Second Reading in parliament but the debate was also cut short because of the election. The government proposal had raised concerns over the possi- ble misuse of the law to curb free speech online. Then Opposition MP Therese Comodini Cachia had warned that the wording of the Bill, which included any acts that are 'offensive', could be used as an excuse to silence critics. "One should not see a return of criminal libel under the guise of cyberstalking or cyberbul- lying," she had argued. Crim- inal libel had been removed from the statute books in 2017. But government will be taking a step back to review the legis- lative proposal before tabling it again, the new Justice Minister said. "The principle that cyberbully- ing and cyberstalking should be criminalised remains the same but given the concerns raised during the parliamentary debate I will review the legislation and table an amended version in due Contentious cyber abuse law to be revised Bill that raised eyebrows over potential implications on free speech to be reviewed, says justice minister Justice minister Jonathan Attard

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