Joe Gerada’s move to silence The Shift registered as ‘violation’ by press freedom watchdog

Lawyer Joe Gerada’s request to the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal to block The Shift from accessing publicly available information about him via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has been registered as a violation by European portal Mapping Media Freedom.

The Mapping Media Freedom platform tracks violations, threats and risks faced by media professionals.

Gerada, the former aide of ex-minister Chris Cardona, requested the Tribunal to order The Shift’s Managing Editor Caroline Muscat to desist from ‘intimidating behaviour’ towards himself and the company through FOIs.

It also sought to block any FOIs from The Shift about himself, one of his government clients – Malta Strategic Partnership Projects Ltd (better known as Projects Malta), or his relationship with the Labour Party in government.

In an unprecedented move, he also requested the FOIs be banned even before they were considered by the Data Protection Commissioner.

The Shift had requested information about his contractual relationship with various government entities, including ministries, and sought information about payments he received from public funds for his legal services.

Gerada, of FKK Acapulco fame, has held numerous positions linked to the government, rose to public attention when he filed multiple libel suits against assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia over her reporting of him.

Reporters Without Borders also slammed Gerada’s assertions, describing them as “absolutely ludicrous”.

His demand was made to the Appeals Tribunal that is deciding on 29 appeals (and counting) by government entities, including Malta Strategic Partnership Projects Ltd, to challenge a decision by the Data Protection Commissioner to grant The Shift information requested through the Freedom of Information Act on payments made through public funds to Media Today co-owner Saviour Balzan. All requests were made according to the FOI law.

This is not the first time a threat against The Shift News has been registered by the platform. Most recently, in August 2021, one was filed after a court security officer demanded a journalist of The Shift hand over his phone and delete photos. Earlier that same year, a press freedom threat was registered after the Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia denied The Shift’s journalists access to MPs’ tax declarations.

Sixty-eight press freedom threats have been registered in Malta over the past seven years.

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