The prime minister has agreed to freeze a proposed media reform once the three Bills that encompass it are passed through the first reading stage in Parliament.

The agreement was reached on Thursday evening during a meeting between Robert Abela and the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM).

Abela wrote to Judge Michael Mallia, the chairman of the committee of experts who had made proposals for the reform, asking him to consider opening a consultation process on the bills. 

In the letter published on Thursday evening (see pdf link below), the prime minister promised that the parliamentary process would be halted until the committee concludes its consultation and drafts another report.

The IĠM members on the committee will, meanwhile, push for the consultation to take place in the widest possible manner.

The IĠM said on Thursday it is satisfied that common sense has prevailed and that the process will not go ahead before meaningful public consultation takes place.

The institute this week warned the government it would pull out of the media reform process unless legislation on media protection is opened for consultation. 

Journalists have been pressing for the reform to be more far-reaching, saying it does not do enough to protect them and media freedom. 

The committee of experts was set up on a recommendation of the board of inquiry looking into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that happened nearly five years ago.

On Tuesday, Abela defended the process that would lead to the reform but with the latest move has acknowledged the need for broad consultation.  

PN calls on government to withdraw Bills

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said the government should withdraw the three Bills and only present them in Parliament once a wide consultation process would have been carried out.

It said it will be continuing with its public consultation process with journalists and all those who had an interest in the media in Malta with the aim of being in a position to present all the necessary amendments once the legislation is debated in Parliament.

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