A Bill to protect journalists from costly overseas legal battles intended to bully them into silence has been tabled by the Opposition.

The Bill seeks to combat so-called strategic lawsuits of public participation (SLAPP). 

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said this initiative was taken in the wake of what it described as blatant corruption cases perpetrated under the Labour government, which it said had eroded the rule of law.

Journalism, independent media and free expression are major pillars in a functioning democracy and are instrumental to expose cases of corruption, the PN said.

A number of local media organisations and journalists have faced libel suits in foreign jurisdictions in recent years. The PN noted that the intimidation had increased in the aftermath of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The PN said that the practice of using litigation to burden journalists with huge legal costs in an attempt to silence them had to stop. Moreover, it pointed out that the Labour government had done nothing in this regard and in 2018 had even voted against a separate Bill, also piloted by the Opposition to introduce safeguards against SLAPP.   

The Bill comprises amendments to the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure and the Media and Defamation Act.

Opposition leader Adrian Delia, deputy leader David Agius and MPs Therese Comodini Cachia, Jason Azzopardi, and parliamentary whip Robert Cutajar signed the Bill.

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