This government has made strides in legislations pertaining to equality with the introduction of civil unions, the criminalisation of gay therapy and other legislations such as the decriminalisation of religion vilification. But it’s looking like all these changes have been first and foremost for the boosting of votes rather than the government’s will to keep personal liberties close to heart. If that government really cared about our rights and liberties then there would have never been such amendments to the new media bill.
Simply put this new law will require anyone who is a resident of Malta, who publishes content on the internet dealing with news or current affairs to register with the government. The Malta Information Technology Law Association (Mitla) has already published its reservations for this bill saying it’s a “nebulous law.” The bill will require “any web-based service relating to news or current affairs that operates from Malta” to register with the government.
By now the alarm bells should have started going off
If you are a person who, in their spare time, has a travel blog but you sometimes complain about the dire state of Air Malta. If you have a website where you post satirical images relating to current affairs, if you are a university student with a blog, penning your own opinions, you will need to register, or face a fine of €1,000. By now the alarm bells should have started going off. Why should anyone expressing themselves online be made to register on a list with the government? If they haven’t then I’m afraid you’ve already swallowed the blue pill and you’ve already woken up in your bed and you’re believing whatever you want to believe. I guess I’m a little jealous because as Cypher says “ignorance is bliss”.
But registration is already mandatory for news editor or printed media, TV and radio, I hear you say. Why should this be any different? The answer is simple. This is the internet, and love it or hate, the internet has nothing to do with old media. As Mitla said “the Internet is a bastion of activity and free expression – registration will put this under government control.”
There are already measures and checks in place, which perhaps might need to be updated.
Furthermore, old media news outlets operate as businesses. Their aim is to generate money from what is being broadcasted. A person having a lifestyle blog where they post about their OOTD (that’s Outfit Of The Day for the non-millenials) and sometimes argues about the abysmal state of Malta’s public transport is maintaining their blog as a hobby. And there are already measures and checks in place, which perhaps might need to be updated.
If said lifestyle blogger shoots to fame and starts accepting sponsorships, the law already requires them to register as a business. If said blogger goes on a racist rant, they are still liable for prosecution. If the same blogger decides to bully a rival blogger, again prosecution is still possible.
The point is that this law, in its current state, with non-definitions of what ‘news’ or ‘website’ is, is nothing but a threat to personal liberties. Mel Hart running a personal blog (which is how I started writing in the first place) doesn’t need to be on some government register simply because in her spare time she enjoys writing about current affairs.
I am quoting a fellow internet commentator who summed the idea of this list perfectly and I’m reproducing it here with his permission:
Regulation of illegal content is necessary; but there are different, and more acceptable ways of doing so that do not overstep the limits of personal liberties and free expression.
Let me present you with an analogy that might help.
Let's consider child porn. It's illegal. Its presence on the Web is a crime.
It's also a crime that is often anonymous because no child pornographer usually leaves his name-tag attached to it.
So how do we regulate it?
Do we ask all web users in, say, Malta, to put their name down on a register, on the off chance that one or two of them may eventually turn out to be child porn offenders? No, we don't, because that would be oppressive and would be placing unnecessary controls on the vast majority of individuals who use the Web in perfectly legitimate ways.
This was written by Michael Zammit Maempel, a lawyer specialising in media and technology law. He continues by saying that “history has taught us time and again what happens when lists of people suddenly become lists of enemies of the state, simply on a government whim.” This is the reason why this register needs to be opposed.
Minister Owen Bonnici can try and spin this as much as he wants on Facebook and elsewhere. This law WILL create website censorships because people will start thinking twice about starting up blogs and publishing their opinions. If the government really has at heart transparency maybe they should start by publishing the Electrogas contract in full rather than blacking out most of it like it’s some Jason Bourne file.
And if the government is so sure that this bill won’t censor the Internet, then maybe they can provide an example of a bill like this in another democratic country? China and their Blogger’s Law of course doesn’t apply and we all know why.
This bill affects one of your most basic freedoms, so let your blood boil, be angry, choose the red pill.