Press freedom organisations slam Abela’s take on OSCE meeting

Prime Minister Robert Abela met with Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Teresa Ribeiro to discuss the government’s proposed media reform bills, but his public relations offensive did not fool Europe’s leading experts on press freedom and the safety of journalists.

The Office of the Prime Minister published a press release soon after the meeting claiming Abela had presented to Ribeiro “the three draft laws that offer the highest level of protection to journalists and the media sector overall ever given in Malta’s history.”

Press freedom groups were quick to respond to the photo Abela shared of the meeting on Twitter.

General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists Ricardo Gutiérrez expressed his strong disagreement with Abela, whose “reform plans are not up to the seriousness of the situation.”

Gutiérrez invited the prime minister to discuss the proposed reforms with the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM).

The government’s press release states that “a committee of media experts was appointed following the acceptance of the recommendations of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia”, and that “87 per cent of the committee’s recommendations were included in the media reform.”

Therese Comodini Cachia, a lawyer for the family of the slain journalist, was quick to put this claim in context, stating that the proposed reforms “fail to meet international standards, ignore the best 13 per cent of his own committee’s proposals”, and go against the legal analysis provided by the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media.

According to the press release, Abela also referred in the meeting to “the agreement reached with the Caruana Galizia family and the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) on the composition and terms of reference of the committee of experts.”

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation refuted the prime minister’s claim, saying, “No agreement was reached on the composition and terms of reference of the committee of experts.”

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) was also unimpressed, and called for Ribeiro “to discuss this issue with Maltese journalists and their organisation IGM. They totally disagree with Robert Abela.” Ribeiro was also urged to read a new article written by The Shift’s Elizabeth De Gaetano for the International Press Institute (IPI).

As the IPI representative said on Twitter, the article examines “the glacial pace of the reform process for implementing much needed recommendations to improve the safety of journalists in Malta.”

Deliberate obstruction at every stage

The process of implementing legislation for the protection of journalists as called for by the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination has been mired in deliberate obstruction from the beginning, with the government claiming to implement the recommended changes while doing everything it can to undermine them.

Rather than rely on experts to lay the groundwork for these new reforms, the government gave its hastily assembled committee three months to critique draft legislation that had already been written, and that was full of weaknesses which had already been identified.

The government demanded the committee keep their discussions secret, despite claiming later that they could have consulted anyone they wished — a claim that published correspondence proved was not true.

In spite of objections from more than a hundred Maltese journalists, academics, and artists who urged Abela to hold a public consultation on the new laws, the government tabled draft legislation in parliament in October, including proposed legal amendments related to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) which did not meet international standards.

Abela only stopped the parliamentary process and agreed to open the legislation to public scrutiny when two Institute of Maltese journalists (IĠM) members threatened to withdraw from the committee in protest.

                           
                           
                               
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3 Comments
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makjavel
makjavel
25 days ago

Robert Abela is either naive or plain stupid. He thinks he can spin and tell half truths to the OSCE representatives. These are not Super One reporters whose brains have been shorted out.

Joe Borg
Joe Borg
25 days ago
Reply to  makjavel

Sur prim. Jekk in nies tieghek huma kif tghidulhom intom stess GAHAN ghax jibilghu kollox ahna ma tittmejielx bina. It tajjeb nghidulu tajjeb u l hazin nghidulu hazin.

Greed
Greed
24 days ago
Reply to  makjavel

Robber is used to speaking to sheep who stand up and applaud a locking of a stamp

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