Eight months after Maltese citizens protested in Valletta against ACTA, the international treaty believed to restrict the rights of Internet users, and against the Maltese government secretly signing this treaty, Communications Minister Austin Gatt has published a white paper on the introduction of Digital Rights in the Constitution of Malta.
This white paper is the result of the Prime Minister’s promise, eight months ago to the day, to introduce legislation to establish new digital rights to internet access, rights to access information online, online freedom of expression and the right to informational self-determination.
It is ironic that while this Digital Rights Bill promotes access to Internet and access to information on Internet, it was prompted by a secret international treaty which the Maltese government signed without telling anyone he had done so and without any public consultation.
Furthermore, PM Gonzi’s government is still to adopt the Whistleblower Act to protect persons who want to reveal unlawful acts which, in many cases, are based on documents collected through ICT and Internet or are digitally recorded.
As a result of what happened last February in the wake of the ACTA protests, the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications commissioned an academic study to lay the groundwork for the legislation. The study proposes the enactment of a Constitutional Reform to establish constitutional principles comprising negative and positive obligations on the State. A new bill, entitled Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2012 has been drafted and is proposed in the White Paper.
The objects of this Bill are to recognise, promote and protect information and communication technologies including electronic communications networks as a tool for the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms and provides for the recognition, promotion and protection of new rights including the right of access to the underlying infrastructures, the right of access to information through information and communication technologies, including electronic communications networks, the right to share and impart information through the use of information and communication technologies, including electronic communications networks, the right to informational self-determination and privacy and to regulate the restrictions of such rights and ensure judicial protection and due process.
Any changes to the Constitution to enshrine such rights have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
The White Paper was drafted by Claudio Grech, the right hand man of Minister Gatt for many years and consultant to the same minister. Earlier this year he resigned from chairman MITA, the government IT agency, to work on his electoral campaign as a PN candidate. He is also a member of the PN election strategy group.
The white paper on the introduction of Digital Rights in the Constitution of Malta can be accessed on mitc.gov.mt/digitalrights. Comments can be submitted on email@example.com and the deadline is on Friday 30th November 2012.