Your Right to Know: The Shift, RSF and Daphne Foundation to debate FOI abuse

5 October public panel debate to be conducted by The Shift’s Caroline Muscat, Reporters Without Borders’ Rebecca Vincent and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation’s Corinne Vella

 

The Shift will be holding a public debate on 5 October on the government’s efforts to impede access to information and how this affects the news that the public reads.

Those attending will have the opportunity to hear, first-hand, about The Shift’s all-out legal battle against 40 Freedom of Information (FOI) lawsuits brought against it by government entities, the legal challenge to the Freedom of Information Act being mounted by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation and why international organisations have mobilised to support these initiatives.

The panel will be composed of The Shift’s Managing Editor Caroline Muscat, Corinne Vella from the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) International Campaign Director Rebecca Vincent.

One of The Shift’s more considerable battles to obtain information has been ongoing since December 2020, when it filed a set of Freedom of Information requesting the contracts and/or payments made by different government entities to MediaToday co-owner Saviour Balzan, or any of his private companies, since 2013.

A year ago, the Information and Data Protection Commissioner ruled in favour of The Shift but all 40 entities have since challenged the Commissioner’s decision at the FOI Appeals Tribunal.

Tribunal chair Anna Mallia has so far decided on 12 out of the 40 cases and has confirmed the government’s obligation to publish the information. Nevertheless, as each entity lost case after case, they filed appeals for a second time, this time in court.

Such prevalent misuse of the FOI procedures to block or limit access to information within a reasonable time is why the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation is challenging Malta’s Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in court.

That case aims to limit state authorities’ arbitrary refusals to provide information in the public interest, and to reverse the culture of secrecy behind their claims of privacy and commercial sensitivity, enabling public interest journalism to hold power to account.

In February, several international press freedom organisations, including Reporters Without Borders, voiced concerns over the abuse of Malta’s FOI legislation to obstruct requests and obfuscate the disclosure of public information, and illustrates the need for amendments to the 2008 law.

Such revisions have already been called for by the Data Commissioner and the independent board of the Public Inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Similar concerns have also been raised by the Venice Commission and the Special Rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The event is free of charge and will be held on 5 October at The Storeroom in Ta’ Xbiex between 18.00 and 19.00. Anyone interested in attending can register here.

                           
                           
                               
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