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Free Speech In Malta – Not For Satirists

The authorities in Malta have charged the satirist Matt Bonanno with the crime of threatening the evangelical Christian group River of Love. In a Facebook comment, he stated that he would like to see the organisation relocated to Bugibba and then see the place be carpet bombed. This would kill two birds with one stone. If convicted, Bonanno is facing a fine of up to €50000 or up to 1 year in prison.

Certainly a strong case can be made that the concept of free speech does not protect concrete threats. Otherwise, someone could put a gun to my head, ask me to hand over my wallet and claim that this is free speech if the trigger is not pulled. If a threat is made, no one has to wait until the crime is done. Anyone has a natural right to defend himself against credible threats.

But the threat needs to be credible. It is difficult to argue that in this case Bonanno made an actual real threat. Or does anyone believe that he had actual plans, let alone the means to carpet bomb Bugibba. It should be clear to everyone that he was joking around. At no point was River of Love under any real danger from him.

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