Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech says that the amendment is not to limit the use of right of reply but make it more effective where such right really exists
The Broadcasting Authority has announced changes to the rule of right-of-reply last week. The amendments to the law now state that instead of news bulletins and current affairs programmes are no longer legally bound to publish a right of reply.
According to a press release issued last week, television and radio newsrooms have the option to reject a call for a right of reply if it involves "a punishable act, would render the broadcaster liable to civil law proceedings or would transgress standards of public decency".
According to the standards for news bulletins and current affairs programmes, any person whose reputation and good name have been damaged by incorrect facts broadcast on TV or radio, can exercise a right of reply.
The Broadcasting Authority will also ensure that rights of reply will not be "hindered" by the imposition of "unreasonable" terms or conditions by broadcasters.
It will also ensure the reply will be transmitted within a reasonable time if request itself has been "substantiated", and always at a time and manner appropriate to the broadcast to which the request refers.
Former PN culture minister and broadcaster Francis Zammit Dimech said that the overall effect of the amendment "is not to limit the use of right of reply but make it more effective where such right really exists," adding that it "appears to protect the freedom of expression as applicable to broadcasters, except where the reputation and good name of an individual entity have been damaged by an assertion of incorrect facts".
However, Zammit Dimech added: "I would personally prefer the Authority to issue some guidelines to explain better the impact of the amendment since the wording used can be subject to different interpretations."