“This restriction impacts directly not only on the right to freedom of information but also on freedom of movement,” the Court concluded as it denied Minister Byron Camilleri’s appeal and ordered his ministry to pay all court expenses.
Camilleri’s ministry was condemned for stifling fundamental human rights – the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to information.
As part of its crusade to keep citizens in the dark, Labour uses our money to trample on basic freedoms. Camilleri was contravening Article 41 of Malta’s Constitution, which establishes the right to expression and to information.
Labour chose to pick a fight with the international human rights organisation Access Info Europe, which aims to protect and promote freedom of expression and works to assist journalists and civil society organisations.
The organisation sought basic information from Camilleri’s ministry about the repatriation of migrants as part of a Europe-wide study. No personal data was requested. All EU member states – as well as the UK, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – provided all the information willingly.
Only Byron Camilleri refused. He had to find some excuse to withhold such basic information.
He rifled through the law to pick one – that the person requesting the information had not lived in Malta for five years.
Labour intentionally misinterpreted the law based on where a comma was placed in the legal text with one objective – to withhold information and deny basic human rights.
Access Info Europe was flabbergasted. Why was this tiniest of European states refusing to provide the basic information all other EU states and non-EU states willingly provided?
What was Labour hiding? Why all this secrecy? Is Labour still protecting Neville Gafa?
Access Info Europe took its case to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. The Commissioner concluded “the legislators’ intention was unequivocally to restrict such rights to persons residing in Malta for at least five years”.
That legislation was passed under a PN administration led by Lawrence Gonzi. His parliamentary speech made it crystal clear: “We should give this right primarily to those who live in Malta, European citizens and even citizens of non-EU countries with a reciprocity agreement with the EU.”
Does that sound like a legislator intending to restrict those rights? But since when was Labour interested in upholding the spirit of the law? It’s only interested in misrepresenting laws for the explicit purpose of crushing human rights.
Access Info Europe went to the Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal overturned the Commissioner’s ruling supporting Byron Camilleri’s decision to withhold information.
Access Info argued that Camilleri was contravening Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 42 of the Charter for Human Rights, Article 15 of the EU treaty and EU Regulation 1049/2001. No mean feat.
EU treaties highlight the importance of transparency as part of good governance and active participation in democratic life. As an EU member state, Malta was obliged to adopt European standards of transparency.
But Labour’s default position is anti-democratic.
Labour was never European in spirit. It fought tooth and nail to keep us out of the EU, and when the country voted to join, Alfred Sant, with Joseph Muscat’s help, attempted to steal that victory from the nation.
Both subsequently took up their lucrative seats in the European Parliament. Muscat later abused Malta’s EU membership. He sold passports like a night watchman allowing people into Europe via the backdoor for a bribe.
Labour only endorsed the financial rewards of EU membership but refuted the freedoms membership guarantees its citizens.
Labour retains its Soviet autocratic approach to information and human rights. It’s no different from the Labour of the Foreign Interference Act. Its motivation remains the same – oppression.
Openness and transparency are anathemas to Labour. Labour is synonymous with contempt for free speech and disdain for fundamental freedoms. It resists all requests for information, squandering taxpayers’ money to deny us our rights.
Byron wouldn’t accept the Tribunal’s decision. He challenged it in court.
Through his Assistant Director Stephen Vassallo, Camilleri argued that no information should be given to Access Info – because the individual requesting it hadn’t resided in Malta for five years.
He insisted the Tribunal should deny the organisation’s right to freedom of information and should apply his distorted interpretation of Maltese law and “not the law of other member states”. Labour hasn’t realised that EU law is not the law of a foreign state; it’s our law.
In his cynical appeal, Camilleri attacked the Appeals Tribunal for ruling against him. Byron’s assistant director maintained the Tribunal shouldn’t have looked at Gonzi’s parliamentary speech to reach its decision. He accused the Tribunal of being “wrong, illogical and legally flawed”.
The Court wasn’t impressed.
Refuting Camilleri’s arguments, it stated the obvious: “The Maltese legislator did not intend to create a law which is different from that of all other EU member states.”
It insisted that “Gonzi’s speech specified that the right to freedom of information was being extended to all EU citizens and citizens of non-EU countries with reciprocity agreements with the EU.”
In September 1990, a PN government had the foresight to sign up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers.”
It also had the courage and determination to battle Labour’s misinformation campaign and make Malta an EU member state, ensuring its people benefit from the protections afforded by EU law.
That precious foresight is our last protection against Labour’s malicious attempts to deny us our most basic freedoms.
The court quashed Byron Camilleri’s efforts to trample on human rights. It turned down Labour’s perverted appeal – and condemned the Home Affairs Ministry to pay the costs.
But sadly, we will be paying the financial and reputational costs of Byron’s lunacy.
“Openness and transparency are anathema to Labour”
How on earth can anything be anathema to me – if I don’t have the faintest idea of what it means in the first place?
I hope you are joking! If not, you obviously don’t know how to use the internet.
Buy a dictionary?
The reason why these blatant illegal decisions are taken by the Ministers is that we pay. The only way to make THEM pay is to land them for ONE NIGHT IN JAIL. How can we accept a situation were the Minister Breaks OUR RIGHTS , the Minister is Found Guilty , and WE PAY. Since when does the VICTIM has to pay the damages, indirectly , but STILL ultimately it is the victim. Any Lawyer has the time and the guts to argue this in court? This should be valid for ALL Government administrators who are found guilty .
Shamelessness is the main reason for our country’s present tragedy.
Is Byron, who I consider as intellectually deficient, being given advice by some ‘pastaz’ who defends crooks?
The reference to Dr Gonzi makes me wonder, because il-pastaz has always been known to hate Dr Gonzi, and would do his utmost to try and denigrate him.
Take out the politics for just a moment, the automatic response is to appeal, then appeal the appeals etc .
How much money would we as a country save if they just stopped, and accepted these decisions?
I would love to see a total figure on the govt legal appeals bill for the year. Because this money could go into roads, schools, grants. (Hell, it could even go into paying for the minister to go on holiday, if it’s kept in the govt hands…😛😁)
Why waste all this time and energy on lawyers? And then we wonder why important cases aren’t heard for 20 years 🙄
Excellent opinion piece. 👍
Hardly anybody would object the content of this article in regards of the PL when one knows the history of that party and its leaders in particular. I wouldn’t necessarily go for the term ‘Soviet’ as this might be apt to the PL, for modern times, I would rather attach the comparison with the PRC because this Communist dictatorship has become more capitalist than the former USSR ever has been.
But for once, put the usual PL machinations apart form the focus without forgetting it. There seems to be a chance that with the EP elections next year, Ms Metsola might become the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ of the EPP. Malta Today published an article about that yesterday in which the leader of the EPP group Mr Weber praised Ms Metsola as one of the (two) most capable women in the EPP.
There is no guarantee that she is set to become the leading contester in the next EP election campaign, merely open considerations. But if she does, her success in order to become elected President of the EC depends on the strength of the EPP in context with the EP election results. If the EPP remains the strongest group in the EP and there won’t be such a way of electing the new President of the EC, as it went down with Mrs von der Leyen, Ms Metsola would get an even more important posting in the EU. That means to me, that if she would get that, she would have more means to put pressure on the PL govt. But for that, the PN in Malta has to get its act together, follow the leader Dr Grech and just for once, get rid of the old infights and adjust itself to be fit for future.
All what I have read so far, the SLAPP issues in Malta which are one major aspect for the freedom of the media and not just on paper, demands a strong political and cross-societal solidarity that aims at winning the next EP election to bring about a change, indirectly. The good and progressive people inside and outside the PN need to united and cooperate with the other NGOs in order to get a wider support for the that aim.
I also think that Simon Busuttil should also take part in it, everybody who has the means and the position to convince not just those who usually vote for the PN but it has to be with the leadership of Dr Grech because he is the one who is not an authoritarian person, he is the one who is capable of compromise, open minded and reaching out to those who are not always in line with the PN. He has what in my opinion makes a good leader and therefore also PM. But those in the PN, who are always holding him back, put obstacles for personal reasoning in his way have to stop with that.
The Malta GE was lost on the PL because the opposition was split and it still is. The PL was given a landslide victory also because the numbers of non-voters increased. If that doesn’t change, things will stay the same and with merely 6 MEPs, of which the PL has four and the PN just two, a win of the PN in the EP elections looks like a minor one, but in the EPP, in the light of all their MEPs, it might make a difference and if lucky, Ms Metsola would become President of the EC. That could be a game changer and to the most dislike of the PL and the present PM in particular.
Malta has to endure another PL term until 2027, next year could be a decisive year in order to have a Maltese at the top of the EC and for Ms Metsola has proven her good conduct and following the principles of the EU, there is a slight chance that she would this way put that pressure on the PL govt so that they have to give up on harassing journalists who reveal the machinations of this party.
These times, when I look around, there seems to be a time where all the NGOs work for themselves. Repubblika is a driving force to put pressure on the PL govt to comply with the rule of law, otherwise the PL does as it pleases. But the others who share the same aims need to join in and form a civil society opposition that lives and acts, and has to be reckoned with. I can only recommend to go to vote, every vote not cast helps the PL, every support not given to the civil society movement helps the PL, every single vote in the ballot box counts. There is still time to the next EP election and one shouldn’t underestimate this election, the more power the EU has, the lesser the chances to have cronyism and nepotism prevail and get away with their deeds.
What really counts for me, is always the Republic of Malta, not one party, but one needs a political movement to do the politics, but I wouldn’t give my vote for a party that is evidently that anti-EU as the PL in Malta is. One merely has to read the comments of the PLers to have it ‘from the horses mouth’ and not just look at the twist and turns of the leading PLers, as pointed out in this article.
When I imagine, just theoretically, that there would be no PL MEP within the S&D, because no PL candidate would have make it to get a seat, I wouldn’t be sad about that. Because even for someone like myself who is politically centre-left and votes for a party that is a member of the S&D group, the PL doesn’t fit into that group because of her stance towards the EU.