Updated 5.40pm with Repubblika statement 

Judge Michael Mallia will lead a committee of experts that will give advice on how to implement recommendations related to the media made by the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry. 

Mallia also chaired that board of inquiry, which wrapped up its work last July. 

The retired judge will be joined by seven other members on the committee, which includes journalists and editors, academics and a lawyer. 

The eight-person committee will be assessing changes to the law that the government is proposing, following consultations with stakeholders.

Legislative changes range from the inclusion of an anti-SLAPP provision to protect journalists from vexatious foreign lawsuits to amending the Constitution to entrench the notion of a free press within it.

The committee of experts has been asked to provide feedback on those proposals within the next two months, with the prime minister pledging to present that feedback to parliament within 10 days of receiving it. 

In a reaction, the PN dismissed the government's proposal as "a drop in the ocean". 

Who are the committee members?

Judge Michael Mallia in 2015. The retired judge will lead the committee of experts. Photo: Darrin Zammit LupiJudge Michael Mallia in 2015. The retired judge will lead the committee of experts. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

1. Judge Michael Mallia: A retired judge who chaired the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. 

2 Saviour Balzan: Founder and co-owner of MaltaToday with a career in journalism spanning over 30 years.

3. Neil Camilleri: Editor-in-chief of The Malta Independent with over 17 years of experience in journalism, including six years as deputy editor at Net Television.

4. Kevin Dingli: A lawyer who served as chairperson of Malta’s Press Ethics Commission and is the managing partner of Dingli & Dingli law firm.

5. Saviour Formosa: Holds a PhD in Spatio-Temporal Criminology and is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Malta. Worked on various reforms and initiatives, including those related to money laundering.

6. Carmen Sammut: Holds a PhD in Media and Communications and lectures and writes about journalism and communication. An experienced broadcaster who regularly appears as an analyst discussing current events.

7. Kurt Sansone: Online editor of MaltaToday who has been working as a journalist for over 25 years and is the secretary-general of the Institute for Maltese Journalists.

8. Matthew Xuereb: Serves as the president of the Institute for Maltese Journalists and is an assistant editor at Times of Malta with 20 years of experience in journalism. 

What will the committee do?

The public inquiry into Caruana Galizia's murder concluded last July that the state bore responsibility for her murder, as it allowed a culture of impunity to develop, reaching the highest rungs of power. 

Made up of three judges, the inquiry also made several recommendations about how to improve local laws, shield politics from undue influence and better protect journalists from harm. 

The committee of experts announced on Tuesday will be responsible for suggesting ways in which the recommendations related to the media can be implemented. 

It will not tackle the other recommendations made by the board of inquiry. 

Five proposed changes, and one implemented one

In its statement on Tuesday, the government listed five proposed changes as well as one that has already been implemented: 

1. Introducing an anti-SLAPP law, to protect journalists from vexatious foreign lawsuits;

2. Amending the media and defamation act to ensure that, if an author or editor facing a defamation suit dies, proceedings cannot continue against his or her heirs; 

3. Increasing punishments for offences against journalists; 

4. Requiring defendants in defamation suits to only pay court registry fees if they lose the case; 

5. Amending article 41 of the constitution to ensure that freedom and pluralism of the media and the importance of journalism is reflected; 

6. Create a committee responsible for identifying risks to journalists and protect them as needed. This committee, made up of the police commissioner, head of the security service and commander of the armed forces, is already in place.  

Months of waiting

The government has said that it consulted widely with stakeholders in the months following publication, refuting PN accusations that it has done nothing in the ensuing months.

It said it had consulted with the Institute of Maltese Journalists and media freedom group Article 19, and kept the European Commission, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the European Parliament's LIBE committee, and the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group "abreast of developments". 

Pressure on the government to begin implementing the inquiry's recommendations has been growing in recent days. 

Just three days ago, the PN unveiled its proposal to implement a mega-bill incorporating 12 other, smaller bills that would implement the inquiry's recommendations. 

And earlier on Tuesday, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation upped the ante in which it said that there was no time to waste while warning that committee members had to have journalist expertise while also being "impartial and independent, and who have the time to give to the anticipated workload." 

PN: A tiny step by a panicked government

The PN's proposal is broader in scope than that presented by the government on Tuesday, which focused on media-related recommendations made by the inquiry. 

Among other things, the PN has drafted proposals to introduce several new anti-corruption laws, introduce unexplained wealth orders, and place positive and codified obligations on the government to uphold the common good. 

In an initial reaction to the government announcement, the PN described it as a "weak reaction" to its own mega-bill and "a tiny step made by a panicked government". 

Earlier on Tuesday, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis told journalists that he did not rule out working with the Opposition to implement their proposals, provided they "made sense".

Repubblika: members must declare their government income

Rule of law NGO Repubblika said it was disappointing that no international experts or "local experts with competence and integrity" were included in the committee.

It said that while some of the committee members nominated could contribute positively, others lacked the necessary independence from the government. It did not name any names. 

The NGO also challenged committee members to publicly declare what they have earned from the government through their work over the past 20 years, "so that the public can judge their advice based on their independence and integrity". 

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