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MALTATODAY 2 October 2022

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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 2 OCTOBER 2022 Press laws not strong enough Editorial THE initial reaction to the press laws being proposed by the government, supposedly on the strength of advice and feedback from its appointed media experts committee, is that it has disregarded not the volume of recommendations; but a substantial, or significant portion of recommendations designed to establish an enabling environment for free journalism. The State proposed to give Constitutional recog- nition to freedom of the media as a public watch- dog together with the right to exercise free jour- nalism as fundamental elements of democracy. Yet these will not be entrenched with corresponding obligations of the State in the all-important Chap- ter IV of the Constitution. By instead of inserting it as a declaration in Chapter II of the Constitution, it means this can be amended with a simple majority vote, and then again is not even enforceable before a court of law. That gives the press no claimable rights. The Committee sought an entrenchment which protects the press and journalists from interference by any public authority, the entrenchment of the protection of sources and any information that may identify sources, and the right of everyone to access independent journalism and pluralistic press. These proposals were disregarded. Constitutional amendments for the right to seek information, as a basic component of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information, were left out, ignoring the proposals of the commit- tee and the recommendations of the OSCE's Repre- sentative on Freedom of the Media, and Article 19. By refusing to declare that public authorities have an obligation to provide access to information, this leaves out an enforceable government policy for disclosure, transparency and accountability, rather than non-disclosure of information held by public authorities. Government even rejected the committee's most important proposal for a declaration of principle recognising the State's obligation to promote the autonomy of the press and to provide an enabling environment to facilitate journalism. And the jury is certainly out on the anti-SLAPP measures, because the tweaked law disregards the recommendations provided by OSCE and Article 19. Rather than meeting international minimum standards for protection of persons engaged in pub- lic participation from manifestly unfounded and abusive proceedings, journalists will still be open to threats from SLAPPs. What is clear is that the government cannot take its tweaked laws as a fait accompli, without a con- vincing public consultation that takes on board also important observations on the legislation proposed, by international NGOs. On one hand, the work of the media experts com- mittee selected by government provided an organ- ised sounding board for the laws proposed by the State. But the observations of the OSCE representa- tive on media freedom and Article 19, as well as far-reaching proposals first tabled in the Oppo- sition's Bills (which were voted against the State, some of which was integrated in the proposed laws by the media experts committee), cannot be ig- nored. By taking the tweaked laws immediately to the House, bypassing an important stage of public con- sultation that happens in so many other aspects of public life – planning for example, with its public consultation hearings; the myriad green papers issued for public consultation by the government ministries; or the public hearings that took place during various parliamentary committees, for ex- ample, the ample space given to conservatives dur- ing the hearings on the yet-to-pass Equality Bill – why not give other journalists, media practitioners, and international NGOs, ample space to improve these laws? There is still time to improve these laws. Gov- ernment must be open to changes. If it purports to truly reflect a wish to create a more enabling en- vironment for transparency and the promotion of free journalism, it cannot steamroll its way through parliament with these laws. 2 October 2012 Victims ask magistrate to start investiga- tions on Rakhat Aliyev LAWYERS file police challenger after Com- missioner of Police failed to investigate alle- gations of torture made against Kazakh mul- ti-millionaire exile Rakhat Aliyev. Senior police investigators in Malta refused to entertain four specific requests to inves- tigate the multi-millionaire former Kazakh diplomat Rakhat Aliyev, over allegations of torture and crimes against humanity when he was deputy chief of Kazakhstan's secret service in 2000. MaltaToday has learnt that German and Maltese lawyers were four times refused a request to investigate prima facie evidence that Aliyev – who lives in self-imposed exile in Malta – had tortured bodyguards Satzhan Ibraev and Pyotr Afanasenko, in an alleged vindication against Kazakh prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin. The numerous requests to the Commis- sioner of Police John Rizzo and assistant commissioner Andrew Seychell to inves- tigate Aliyev – who is also the subject of other criminal investigations in Austria and Germany – are now being followed up by a police challenge in the Maltese courts. Leading the challenge is none other than Lothar de Maizière (pictured below), the man who in 1990 served as the only democratical- ly elected Prime Minister of East Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. "I regard it as being scandalous and ex- tremely unjust that within the European Un- ion, it appears, in order to go unpunished it is simple enough to move from one country to another," De Maizière told MaltaToday. "The Maltese police are refusing to inves- tigate Aliyev's crimes because, allegedly, he is not on the island. It is well known that Rakhat Aliyev and his family live in Malta. He has invested huge sums in real estate and created a holding for the management of property in various European countries." De Maizière, a lawyer who back in the era of communist East Germany had defended victims of State lawlessness and arbitrary rule, told this newspaper he could not accept seeing Aliyev choose to up and leave and move somewhere else to evade justice. ... Quote of the Week "We experience environmental destruction and unbridled construction, traffic everyday despite a €700 million project that was supposed to solve these problems, three hospitals hijacked by the private sector" PN leader Bernard Grech urging people to attend a national protest against the rising cost of living organised by the party MaltaToday 10 years ago

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