Government move to limit freedom of information ‘illegal’

The Prime Minister’s defence of Minister Konrad Mizzi’s clear violation of the law was “brazen and unacceptable,” PN MEP David Casa said in a statement with reference to the Minister’s decision to invite only government-friendly press to an event this week.

On Tuesday, Mizzi visited the Malta Film Studios and invited only the Labour Party’s news outlet ONE and the State broadcaster TVM. The rest of the press found out out about the event after Mizzi uploaded the content to his social media pages. The Prime Minister has backed Mizzi’s decision.

All media houses have a right to be invited to any events where any media are invited. This is a right protected by Article 10 of the ECHR, Article 1 of the Maltese Constitution, as well as constitutional “general principles” of EU law and the EU Charter, lawyers as well as experts in EU law who spoke to The Shift confirmed.

The move was also in breach of the Ministerial code of ethics which states that Ministers have to inform the public and the media of their activities “on a regular basis and in an organised manner”.

Mizzi is at the centre of the scandal involving 17 Black. His move was seen as a way to avoid questions relating to the scandal by the independent press.

“By refusing to invite independent media to his events and thus avoiding any questions on his conduct in relation to his secret deals worth hundreds of thousands of euro with 17 Black, Mizzi is impinging on the right to freedom of expression and free press… [it] shows a clear disdain of the very concept of rule of law once more,” Casa said.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) also said in a statement that access to government events was a “right not privilege”. The IĠM criticised Mizzi’s “hide and seek tactics,” saying the Minister’s behaviour was “unacceptable”.

The IĠM described the move as “a deliberately discriminatory tactic to exclude sections of the Maltese press from putting questions to the Minister that could force him to explain serious allegations of Ministerial misconduct”.

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