The Times of Malta’s refusal to disclose its source on a planned takeover of the Manoel Island project by the Tumas Group, has been supported by the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe, Harlem Désir.
Times of Malta revealed that the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) had asked the newspaper to disclose the source/s of its information.
The international body has called on the the Maltese authorities to drop the request.
“The confidentiality of journalistic sources is an important element of media freedom, widely recognised and protected by international standards and Maltese legislation. The new Media and Defamation Act that came into force in Malta on 14 May, includes strong protection of sources. This is a test case,” Désir said in a statement.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. The MFSA has been asked to confirm, by not later than 6 November whether it would be proceeding further with its request, but the Maltese authorities have not yet replied despite the deadline being missed.
In its report on 9 October, the Times of Malta had revealed that the Manoel Island project – Malta’s largest ever development project – would be changing hands as the Tumas Group planned to buy the majority of shares in the project from Midi plc in a deal amounting to some €100 million for the transfer of shares.
The following month, the newspaper reported that the MFSA had requested the disclosure of “the source/s of the information contained”. The request was made in a letter dated 2 November and signed by the deputy head, Lorraine Vella, and the senior manager, Nathan Fenech, of the MFSA’s Securities and Markets Supervision Unit, the Times of Malta said.
“The independent press has not only the right but also the duty to report on matters of public interest,” the newspaper said.
Malta has dropped to 65th place in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), down 18 places from the previous year.