The ruling by Speaker Anglu Farrugia in Parliament yesterday that this news portal should amend its story published last Sunday following a complaint by Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield breaches the fundamental right to a fair hearing, The Shift News said in its response to the ruling.
In a letter sent to the Speaker of the House this morning (also published in full below), The Shift News noted it was never asked to assert its position with regards to the claims made by Bedingfield. The newsroom was never even formally informed that there was a request for a ‘ruling’.
“What was written constitutes fair comment in the context of all that is happening in the country. That such comments and that commentaries and analyses are written is the very duty of journalists,” The Shift News said, referencing the story Bedingfield took issue with entitled, ‘Disinformation Watch #26: Toxic Tactics on 17 Black’.
The Shift News has not changed or removed the article’s content following the Speaker’s ruling.
The letter to the Speaker notes that if Bedingfield felt misrepresented in any way, “he had every opportunity to avail himself of the remedies available to all citizens in the context of the media law”, which would have given this news portal the right to defend its position.
Yet, this is being disadvantaged by the fact that a decision has already been taken. Bedingfield used this to his advantage, publishing his comment on the Speaker’s ruling on social media within minutes that the ruling was given.
Bedingfield had repeated his allegations outside Parliament, and it was picked up and pushed by pro-government media, such as the Party’s news portal.
The Shift News stressed in its reply to the Speaker that the fact that a report or comment made in the media with regard to something said by a member of the House cannot constitute a breach of privilege simply because of parliamentary status.
“If this were the case, MPs have rights that go beyond those of the very citizens they were elected to serve, which surely is not an acceptable concept in a democratic society,” The Shift News said.
The Shift News pointed out that, even according to the guidelines of the Speaker, the basis of the invocation of parliamentary privilege should be “a wilful or reckless publication of a false or perverted report of a debate” and not a long commentary which taken as a whole shows that the objective of the author is not a malicious one but one that attempts to hold power to account.
The reply to the Speaker noted that in view of the arguments raised, the Speaker’s ruling could not be implemented.