The conclusion of 10 court cases the government filed against The Shift to stop the release of information on the amount of public funds paid to Media Today owner Saviour Balzan has cost taxpayers over €10,000 so far in court fees and costs.
The amount is based on the bills of costs issued by the court in 10 out of the 18 cases concluded so far.
These cases were filed by the government as a second appeal, continuing their efforts to stop the release of information requested through the Freedom of Information Act.
The costs do not include the thousands of euros from public funds it is assumed that the government will have paid (and continues to pay) the army of lawyers it has deployed against The Shift to prevent knowledge of Balzan’s payments by the government from becoming public.
Despite this, Balzan still claims to be an independent journalist. Incidentally, he’s retired twice, and yet there he is again. Sinatra would be proud.
These court cases are the second round of appeals the government has filed to prevent the public from being told about its use of Balzan’s services for the public relations consultancies he provides to various government ministers.
Good PR dilutes the negative impact of the many investigations the truly independent media carries out and obscuring the price of good PR helps the government’s cause.
First, the government filed 40 appeals to the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal against the Information and Data Protection Commissioner’s rulings that the information should be published. As The Shift won one appeal after another (hearings are still ongoing in other identical cases), the government filed a further appeal in each instance, this time in the courts.
It has lost one appeal after the other, with Judge Lawrence Mintoff confirming the decisions of the Tribunal’s Chair, Dr Anna Mallia, that the information is in the public interest and must be released because it involves the use of public funds.
Taxpayers’ expenses arising out of the government’s protection of its spin doctor are expected to balloon further. The government has continued to file appeal after appeal against The Shift, despite the Court of Appeal’s ultra-clear signals.
Although international press freedom organisations have called on the Maltese government to stop this SLAPP action against The Shift, clearly intended to cripple it financially, the government continues to defend Balzan.
The obvious question of why his services are so critically important for the government and its propaganda agenda must be asked, though no one expects any answer to be forthcoming.
The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner publicly stated that the government’s 40 cases against The Shift send a “chilling message”. At the same time, a resolution proposed at the European Parliament backed calls for the cases to be dropped.
And yet, the government ploughs on, wasting public money despite it being clear that it will lose the rest of the cases.
Meanwhile, Balzan continues his mission to discredit other journalists exposing his work for the government. His latest opinion piece is just one example of his dedication to this task.
Our legal ordeal has been going on for over two years and has seen the government digging its heels in to withhold information on how it is financing certain sectors of the independent media.
While it hardly qualifies as ‘independent media’, the government’s course of conduct is also evident in the way state broadcaster PBS sings from the government’s hymn sheet every time, all the time.
Initial information obtained by The Shift, even before the Freedom of Information requests were filed, shows that Balzan, through his newspapers and other private business companies he uses to produce publicly-funded programmes on PBS, received over a million from state coffers since Labour was returned to power in 2013.
These exclude personal consultancy contracts that Balzan was given through direct orders by various ministries, in which he was acting as a consultant to the government, even though he was leading several independent publications at the time.
Despite the poor following of his current affairs programme, the prime-time slots given to him were a source of controversy that led to the sacking of PBS CEO John Bundy.
Former PBS chief Bundy won his industrial tribunal case against PBS over his unfair dismissal in 2017. Problems arising as a result of Media Today’s Managing Director Saviour Balzan’s objections to changes in the programming schedule were central to the case.
Bundy said in his testimony under oath that Balzan had called him to warn him that “You will do as I say”. This was after Bundy had decided that Balzan’s programme did not deserve prime time on TVM.
Balzan, through another company, has also been given use of a government-owned factory at the Mosta Technopark, at a very low rate. The factory is supposed to be used for industrial purposes.
It is not clear how Balzan’s activities classify as “industrial”, except perhaps insofar as they might contribute to the government’s industrial-scale efforts to portray itself in the best of lights.
This is one of those pigs with his snout deep in the trough and covered all over in his own shit .
He is one of the creepy crawlies.
SLAPP BY ROBBER ABELA!
Unbelievable, but I am ashamed of the prime minister.
Dan Vera Jaqqqqqqq ta bniedem iehor. Mur emmnu li huwa indipendenti. Hanzir iehor mall lista dan.
Hawn nikkmanda jien.
1. Tajtu s sensja u qtajtlu x xoghol.
2. Qtajtlu ċ ċhannel.
3. Għalaqtlu l bieb f wiċċu.
4. Stmajtu ta kuf jixraqlu u ta li hu.
Biex la hu ma jidħol fis salott u lanqas il prodotti tiegħu ma jidħlu mill bieb il ġewwa.
1. Għax hawn irid joqghod kif inqeghedu jien
2. irid jobdi minn li ngħidlu jien.
3. Għax ma ngħatix lok li żibel jidħol iħammiġli.
4. Għax jien tiegħi u ta ħadd aktar għax ħadd ma għandu biżżejjed biex iħallas prezzi
I will never watch his program or read what he says
He has no principles and is after the money
He is a lackey ,spineless greedy and one of the tal Klikka
Quite right, it’s like preaching water and drinking wine.
In light of this, all the articles on the MT website look like a farcical attempt to show some ‘government criticism’ to show readers that his paper is somehow ‘independent journalism’ and behind the scenes, the payments from the PL govt are more than welcome.
Even some of the PLers say that with Mr Balzan, one doesn’t know where he stands. Well, maybe he is a tad more clever than the average PL follower who swallows every nonesense and ruse that is dished out by the Castille-Hamrun propaganda machine.
Well, I ‘guess’ that for the many PLers this is just some sort of ‘entertainment’ like watching a football game. With drinks and food sponsored by the PL, or ‘taxpayer’.
Kemm jiflah ikun iżjed falż min karta ta 3 euro, il malti jghid wicc u sormu xorta