The Shift has launched a fundraising campaign to help with its ongoing battle in the Appeals Tribunal against 30 government entities.
The GoGetFunding campaign, titled ‘Our fight for the right to access public information’, was launched in response to an unprecedented 30 appeals (and counting) filed by the different entities in what appears to be a coordinated effort to challenge the Data Protection Commissioner’s ruling to disclose information.
The sittings continued on Thursday, where, after a 45-minute wait, a discussion broke out about the strain the large number of cases placed on the parties involved. A representative from the Office of the Prime Minister who was monitoring the proceedings claimed that requests for information placed an undue burden on state departments.
“What about on an individual?” The Shift’s Editor-in-Chief Caroline Muscat said, pointing out that The Shift — a small organisation that depends on funding and donations to survive — is up against entities backed by taxpayer funding.
The Shift is trying to obtain copies of all contracts and payments made by government entities to Media Today’s Saviour Balzan, including all his commercial entities, on public relations services provided.
The request under the Freedom of Information Act was denied by multiple entities, but the Commissioner overruled those denials.
Some 30 government entities, including the Education Ministry, the Gozo Ministry, Identity Malta and Projects Malta (Malta Strategic Partnership Projects), responded by filing virtually identical appeals against the decision to release this information. One of these appeals was registered as a “violation” by European press freedom watchdog Mapping Media Freedom.
The information The Shift had requested is in the public interest and concerns the administration of public funds.
As Data Commissioner Ian Deguara pointed out in defence of his decision, the FOI act is “designed to ensure the greatest possible transparency and promote accountability in public authorities, by enabling to the extent possible, the exercise of the right of access to documents held by the public authorities”.
“The fact that persons and companies are being paid by public funds certainly leads to the expectation that the public has to know where money went, to whom, and why.”
As government watchdogs, the media has an obligation to report such information.
If you would like to support this cause, you can do so here.