June 2023 | Reforms allow abortion in case mother’s life is at stake
Parliament voted to slightly ease the ban on abortion so that abortions can be performed in cases where the mother’s life is at stake. According to the bill, proposed by the ruling Labour Party, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is now possible with the sign-off of three doctors, except in the most urgent cases. The opposition supported the bill only after last minute changes which weakened the ambition from allowing abortion in cases of risks to the mother’s health to only cover cases of risks to life. Abortion rights campaigners have condemned the amendments as “unworkable,” which they say fall short of protecting women’s reproductive rights in practice, as performing an abortion in all other cases remains a criminal offense.
March 2023 | Case highlights impartiality in state broadcasting
Malta’s Broadcasting Authority (BA) has upheld an impartiality complaint filed against ONE, a media outlet owned by the ruling Labour party, in a significant case in the regulation of party-owned news stations. The Broadcasting Authority ruled against ONE’s decision not to report on ADPD – The Green Party’s press conference about a recent hospital privatisation scandal, and concluded that ONE had been “systematically failing to broadcast ADPD statements in the past months”. It is the first time that BA has found that a station owned by a political party committed a violation by not reporting another party’s perspective. ADPD – The Green Party called on BA to issue directives that would ensure improved media impartiality. The case follows a recent Constitutional Court ruling upholding a judge’s finding in July 2022 that the national broadcaster PBS had failed to treat the National Party impartially by hindering the impact of a political advertisement.
January 2023 | Parliament passes changes to the appointment of top anti-corruption official
Parliament passed a bill introducing an anti-deadlock mechanism for the appointment of the Standards Commissioner. The bill passed with 41 votes in favour and 35 against in its final reading. The Standards Commissioner is responsible for investigating ethical complaints against MPs. The bill amends a requirement in the Standards in Public Life Act for the appointment to be agreed in Parliament by a two-thirds majority vote. The amendment allows for appointment by a simple majority if two initial votes fail to reach a two-thirds majority. Parliament has not yet succeeded in appointing a replacement for George Hyzler, who left the seat vacant. The government’s proposed replacement, former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, was blocked by the opposition. The leader of the Nationalist Party, Bernard Grech, has accused Prime Minister Robert Abela of amending the law to push through his candidate. The use of the anti-deadlock mechanism for the appointment of other high-level positions, including the Presidency and the Chief Justice, had been recommended by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s rule of law body.