Updated 10pm, adds David Casa statement
The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) has requested an urgent meeting with the government to seek a way forward in how the fourth pillar of democracy may be protected against threats such as SLAPP action.
The request was made after several Maltese media organisations received threatening legal letters and requests for compensation by Turab Musayev, Socar Trading’s head of LNG trading.
Musayev, was named as an owner of Cifidex, a company that was involved in a controversial Montenegro wind farm deal with Enemalta. His name was also cited in court testimonies regarding the public enquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The IĠM and the newsrooms concerned, as well as other newsrooms wishing to support their colleagues, united in their denunciation of these threats.
The legal letters were sent to Times of Malta, MaltaToday, The Malta Independent, Lovin Malta and The Shift News between May and June. They were sent by Atkins Thomson lawyers on behalf of Musayev.
“These threats are unacceptable in any self-respecting democracy and the IĠM requests an immediate and urgent meeting with the minister to see how democracy can be safeguarded.
“Government has a unique opportunity to support freedom of speech. SLAPP threats will not intimidate Maltese journalists from continuing to seek truth and justice on a number of corruption cases, the recent high-profile scandals in Malta and the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia,” said IĠM president Sylvana Debono.
“Threatening media organisations with international lawsuits is not the way to engage with journalists or provide an explanation and will be actively fought with all our combined strength,” Debono added.
In a post on Facebook, Nationalist MP Therese Comodini Cachia said Malta had to stop being the country in which those who benefitted and made a killing from public funds and land felt free to threaten the fundamental freedom of expression by attacking those who made the shady deals public.
She called on the government to protect journalists and media houses from SLAPP proceedings.
"SLAPP is a direct threat to our media houses and also to the freedom that each one of us should enjoy in a democracy," Comodini Cachia said.
David Casa says EP will protect media houses
In a statement, MEP David Casa said the European Parliament will stand side by side with threatened Maltese media houses as he supported the Maltese Institute for Journalists' call for an end to this abusive practice.
MEP Casa, who is increasing the pressure on the European Commission to launch an anti-SLAPP Directive, said that “until such legislation is in place, you will find the European Parliament standing side by side with media houses that are threatened and harassed by those they investigate and their legal representatives.”
In his letter to the lawyers of Socars representative, Casa referred to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. “I note with grave concern that the substance of this case is linked to the investigative work of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was assassinated in order to prevent her from exposing linked cases of high-level corruption and money laundering.”