Updated 6.30pm with PN statement

The first reading leading towards the revision of criminal libel law will take place on October 10, the government said today. 

After updating laws relating to artistic expression, the next step will focus on the freedom of journalism expression, the Justice Ministry said. 

It was reacting hours after the the Institute of Maltese Journalists called for the decriminalisation of libel.

The new law is intended to update media defamation and will lead towards the elimination of criminal libel. Another change would be the introduction of new mechanisms of alternative dispute resolutions where civil libel is concerned. 

"The government is committed towards a progressive agenda in favour of laws which regulate the fundamental principles of our democracy," the ministry said. 

In a statement earlier, the journalists' institute said it had discussed the White Paper on improving mediation and proposed that this should be widened to also include libel.

The institute said it was well known that in a considerable number of libel cases, the proceedings were stopped following a declaration by the accused.

This meant a lot of court time would have been wasted. It said the road of mediation would mean that an agreement could be reached avoiding a lot of waste of time and money.

'Well done, but now clean up TVM' - PN

In a statement, the Nationalist Party welcomed the government's announcement but said it comes after a pledge made by part leader Simon Busuttil a year ago. 

"The removal of criminal libel is especially important in the fight against corruption since journalists may investigate without any fear."

The PN appealed to the government to stop interfering in the work of the TVM newsroom if citizens are really to be given the right to information. 

"PBS today cannot carry out its duty since it has become a propaganda machine of the government."


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