Incitement to violence or hatred against the elderly or persons with disabilities will become a crime in terms of amendments to the Criminal Code which started being debated in parliament on Tuesday.
The bill was moved by social inclusion minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, who said Malta was in a situation where no decisive action could currently be taken against certain hate speech, including comments on Facebook, including comments insulting and ridiculing the elderly and people with disability on the basis of their age or their health issues.
Giving some examples, she recalled how a Maltese woman, Raisa, who was wheelchair-bound after having been in a coma for nine months was told on Facebook that she was 'ugly'.
Also, some months ago, attempts were made to insult and hurt Nationalist MP Kevin Cutajar on the basis of his disability.
One could also recall how election candidate Norman Lowell had demonised people with disability, going so far as to reportedly say that babies with disabilities could be killed even after being born and extolling eugenics and the sterilisation of 'defective persons'.
Before the last election, a meme on social media had shown then prime minister Joseph Muscat with the face of a Down Syndrome child.
The minister said people convicted of breaking this law will be liable to imprisonment of between six months and two years, and the existing punishment for those convicted of causing injury or blackmail against the elderly and persons with disabilities would be increased by one or two grades.
Opposition shadow minister David Agius said the Opposition was backing this bill '100%' and said the examples mentioned by the minister were shameful.
He said the Nationalist Party was committed to improving the conditions of people with disabilities and strengthening support given to them and their families. The situation and proposals for an improvement would be discussed at a national conference the party would host on Saturday.
He also suggested that the provisions of this bill should include the family members of persons with disabilities who could be insulted on the basis of their relative's disability.
He also called for measures for greater representation of people with disabilities in various sectors of society.