MediaToday co-owner Saviour Balzan was on a paid contract offering consultancy on media matters to the justice ministry while also being appointed on what should have been an independent media experts committee tasked with implementing press freedom reforms, according to information published in the Government Gazette.
Balzan was acting simultaneously as a member of the media experts committee and as a media campaign consultant and communications strategy adviser for the justice ministry, which was tasked with drawing up legislation based on the committee’s recommendations.
New information on the justice ministry’s direct orders shows Balzan was contracted through one of his companies, Pelagicus Media, by then-justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis to serve the media interests of the justice ministry.
The ministry was at the time under heavy fire for its lack of action on the recommendations of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry on how to better protect the media in the wake of the journalist’s assassination.
The contract lasted six months and ran from September 2021 until March 2022.
The so-called ‘media experts’ committee was established by the prime minister in reaction to public criticism on 11 January 2022, right in the middle of Balzan’s tenure as the ministry’s media campaign consultant and communications strategy adviser.
Balzan’s Pelagicus Media was paid €9,600, excluding VAT, for its consultancy services to the justice minister.
It is unclear whether Balzan declared the conflict of interest to his fellow committee members on what should have been an independent committee.
In a note sent to foreign institutions, the Office of the Prime Minister described Balzan as “a veteran journalist” and conveniently omitted his government consultancies and, most significantly, that with the justice ministry which was spearheading the implementation of the public inquiry’s recommendations by drafting legislation it attempted to rush, half-baked, through parliament.
Jonathan Attard replaced Zammit Lewis as justice minister after the March 2022 general elections. Balzan remained on the committee.
At the time of this latest consultancy, Balzan was hosting current affairs programmes on PBS, produced by Pelagicus Media and paid through state funds, while also managing his newspapers, MaltaToday and Illum.
The committee of media experts was set up in line with the recommendations put forward in the public inquiry and tasked with advising on how to implement recommendations related to the State’s failure. The whole process has been discredited, with a
Apart from the hundreds of thousands of euros Balzan received from taxpayers since the Labour Party was returned to power in 2013, this latest consultancy coincided with the Gozo Ministry also paying him for interviews and media features for the minister and ministry.
The incestuous connection between the government’s media experts committee and the justice ministry is a glaring case in The Shift’s ongoing freedom of information battle to have the government publish its public relations contracts involving Balzan’s consultancies with different government entities while claiming to run an independent newsroom.
The Times of Malta had revealed that Balzan was consulting Ian Borg as he faced public uproar on the Central Link project. The Shift also revealed his advice to former justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis, using his programme on PBS to drive the government’s narrative forward.
After losing a raft of appeals instituted by several government ministries and agencies to avoid having to divulge payments made to Balzan and his companies, the government launched a court blitz against The Shift to deny it its right to information.
After filing 40 appeals at the Tribunal, chair Anna Mallia has ruled in favour of The Shift, supporting the Information and Data Protection Commissioner’s decisions that the information on the expenditure of public funds should be transparent.
In an unprecedented move, the government filed second appeals before the court – 18 so far – to bury the information. Judge Lawrence Mintoff ruled on two cases, insisting the government must be transparent. More judgements are anticipated this month.
Dan Balzan kif the shift news TOQORSU FTIT jitlef qisu (STAGNO NAVARRO) insomma. Oqghod attenti ghax issa qed jikber u l inkwiet ma jodghodx ghalih
The PL is always selecting their personnel well. Mr Balzan is just one example out of the many who just play by the PL book to get well paid.
and yet….he goes on the pulpit every Sunday and Robert Abela tells his herd of sheep how transparent and open he is!….🤨
Thank you TheShiftNews for exposing the true face of Saviour Balzan. What a disgrace. Edward Zammit Lewis paying Balzan for public relations advice. No wonder, he was not elected through direct votes.
THE HOLIER THAN THOU BALZAN, MIXED UP WITH A CORRUPT FASCIST GOVERNMENT. CAN’T BE!!!🤣🤣🤣
Money talks. By the way what happened to Kohhu’s son for the same comment on facebook regarding his father’s leave from jail?
Paraphrasing D. Adams – ‘his face had the texture of an orange… but there the resemblance to anything sweet ended…’
Kemm nifilhu u ndumu ninsterqu?