[attach id=625764 size="medium" align="right"]Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne.[/attach]

The government had yet to discuss a draft law aimed at protecting the media from vexatious lawsuits, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne confirmed.

Mr Fearne said the Labour parliamentary group would be meeting in the coming days to discuss the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) Bill proposed by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi.

SLAPP lawsuits are aimed at silencing and intimidating critics by burdening them with exorbitant legal fees.

The Bill seeks to ensure that the courts in Malta serve as the sole jurisdiction where legal procedures against Malta-based publications and journalists can be heard.

Mr Fearne said the Labour government would be deciding on whether to back the Bill after the parliamentary group met.

“I believe the group should be meeting to discuss this in the coming days but this government has already introduced a number of laws on a local level that make such lawsuits impossible on a national level.

One must look at international obligations and how these may or may not restrict us

“Naturally, one must look at international obligations and how these may or may not restrict us,” he noted.

Questions sent to the Office of the Prime Minister on whether the government would be supporting the Bill were not answered by the time of writing.

A cross-party group of MEPs have proposed the introduction of EU-wide legislation banning SLAPP lawsuits. They are awaiting a reply from the European Commission, insisting they would be willing to even draft a directive themselves.

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