The latest attempt to castrate the press

Poor little Joe Gerada doesn’t want to be accountable to those who ultimately pay his salary. In fact, just asking how much taxpayer money he’s raking in has inflicted terrible trauma on him.

He’s gone from allegedly playing Hide The Sausage on government time in Velbert, to playing Hide The Phone Records, to demanding the Information and Data Protection Appeals tribunal participate in Hide The Contracts.

Asking for information in the public interest — in full compliance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act — isn’t informing the public about the likely abuse of taxpayer money. No, according to Jittery Joe, asking such questions is “harassment” and “intimidation” – and he’s the victim.

The payments he’s getting for ‘legal services’ are “of a personal nature” — sort of like the services between a man, his boss and their prostitute — and if the amount and nature of those taxpayer-funded payments was made public, it would cause him harm.

What sort of harm, you might ask? I’d hazard a guess that the greatest harm would be to his bank account.

If nothing else, Gerada’s arguing that the spending of public money is “not of any public interest” is a clear indication the government should hire competent lawyers rather than Party cronies.

If Jittery Joe didn’t want to be accountable to the public, then the former policy officer should have chosen something other than public service as a career.

But none of this is about serving the public, is it? It never was. The longer this kleptocratic charade goes on, the more there is for them to hide.

The government routinely denies FOI requests on vague grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity’, and claiming the nonexistence of documents that clearly exist somewhere in a modern digital workplace.

They also routinely appeal FOI requests that go in The Shift’s favour, fighting tooth and nail to delay revelations as long as possible. And when their appeal is inevitably denied, they sulk in the corner like a stubborn toddler and refuse to hand over the documents they are legally obliged to make public. Who’s going to force them? Angelo Gafa?

But this takes ‘hiding information’ to an interesting new level.

Gerada doesn’t just want to waste your money on highly paid legal consultants and appeals in an effort to overturn legitimate decisions. He wants the tribunal to ban The Shift from filing any FOI requests about how the government is dishing out public funds.

Our recent dirt-digging efforts have clearly struck a nerve.

Joe Gerada isn’t alone in being ‘traumatised’ by the light being shone in his dark corners. Twenty-nine different government entities have filed carbon-copy appeals to keep The Shift from learning how much they’ve given Media Today’s Saviour Balzan.

They want to avoid it so badly they’re launching a legal challenge against the Data Protection Commissioner’s authority, and by extension, the Freedom of Information Act and the previous court judgements upon which the Commissioner’s powers are founded.

Their arguments are clearly nonsensical, but this legal action could threaten your ability to know what the government is doing in your name and how they’re squandering your money.

This latest attempt to stifle questions is far from the only time laws have been twisted to conceal information from the public.

Last November, the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ was distorted to justify LN 456, a legal notice that grants a handpicked State employee who answers directly to Edward Zammit Lewis’s justice ministry the power to decide which court records are published online and which are hidden.

It wasn’t exactly setting a precedent. As far back as May 2019, then Justice Minister Owen Bonnici admitted to parliament that he had authorised the court’s director-general to remove online judgements when requested by individuals when he deemed fit. Some 176 requests were filed, and 112 were accepted — and hidden — including the sentences of convicted criminal and Konrad Mizzi crony, Lionel Gerada.

Similar deletions from the public record occurred in a completely different realm earlier in 2021. While the government was lobbying frantically to stay off the FATF greylist of countries at high risk of money laundering and terrorist financing, the Malta Business Registry quietly deleted the online records of hundreds of thousands of shell companies which had been dissolved or liquidated.

Freedom of Information legislation is supposed to mean accountability, transparency and good governance in a democratic society. The board of the public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s brutal murder called for a revision of the Freedom of Information Act “to limit the cases in which the public administration may arbitrarily refuse to provide information that is in the public interest and that the public is entitled to”.

Far from refusing to divulge information, this latest coordinated barrage of appeals by Joe Gerada and some 29 government entities is an attempt to ensure we can’t ask questions at all.

                           
                               
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Oliver
Oliver
7 months ago

We have seen the new MFSA CEO refusing to answer questions. We have seen the MFSA Executive Committee members and FIAU top officials refusing to declare their conflicts of interests in public. These officials get access to all info about you, but they shy away from answering questions. This is Malta. A Mafia state.

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
7 months ago

One day soon, when finally there is a real police commissioner in place who finally prosecutes Konrad Mizzi, you can be sure that Mizzi’s lawyers will claim the law that removed time bar on corrupt politicians was anti-constitutional, just like Justyne’s lawyers are attacking for the same reason the law that set up the Standards Commissioner, which incidentally she herself drafted some three years ago.

adriang
adriang
7 months ago

What sort of harm, you might ask? I’d hazard a guess that the greatest harm would be to his bank account.”
I’d hazard a guess that the greatest harm is that it could be far worse than that. Associations with corrupt individuals or even organised crime comes to mind. Frankly I would be surprised that such a person is just trying to hide his payroll – there’s more to this than meets the eye – we need to think a little out of the box on this fellow.

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