Government launches digital rights consultation in wake of ACTA controversy
The government today launched a public consultation exercise to enshrine digital rights in the Constitution.
The four rights - the right to internet access, the right to access information online, online freedom of expression and the right to exchange information online – were launched by IT Minister Austin Gatt.
The public consultation will close at the end of November.
Dr Gatt said the proposed rights will be included in the section of the Constitution which deals with the country's principles and will bind future governments in this "highly digitised world we live in".
The announcement on these constitutional changes came in February during a hot national debate on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement.
ACTA was shot down by the European Parliament and shelved.
The former chairman of the Malta Information Technology Agency, Claudio Grech, was one of the consultants appointed by Dr Gatt to prepare the White Paper .
He explained that this was the "logical step forward" after the use of ICT grew exponentially in Malta over recent years. ACTA, he said, had brought the issues of digital rights and internet access into the spotlight as internet was a perceived fundamental human right.
More than three-quarters of Maltese households have a broadband internet connection while 98 per cent of businesses have internet access. Dr Gatt said this placed Malta 16th in the world for internet penetration.
Mr Grech said it was being proposed that the State should recognise, promote and safeguard citizens' right to access to the internet and refrain from introducing laws that unnecessarily impinge on internet access.
Dr Gatt said this was "a strong political statement" on enshrining something which was affecting society so much.
Asked whether there was going to be a body set up to ensure that these rights were being respected, Dr Gatt said it would then be up to individual governments to set up these watchdogs.
The White Paper and the ministry's presentation of the proposals can be seen on the pdf links below. It can also be accessed on mitc.gov.mt/digitalrights. Comments can be submitted on [email protected] and the deadline is on Friday 30th November 2012.