Prime Minister Robert Abela has confirmed that important public information on the composition of numerous boards, agencies and other entities in the public service is no longer available on the government’s official website, www.gov.mt as reported recently by The Shift.
Abela, however, told Opposition MP Joe Giglio in parliament that the restriction of information is only “temporary” as the government is in the process of “modernising its website”.
Abela refrained from clarifying how long the ‘modernisation’ will take, but pledged that all the deleted public information will once again be made available “in the coming weeks”.
Acknowledging that information on the hundreds of individuals representing the government on its boards and agencies is no longer available, Abela insisted that such information can still be researched through a list of entities available on the website under each ministry.
But an exercise conducted by The Shift shows Abela misled parliament since the lists of boards and agencies under the ministries do not provide the information the Prime Minister is claiming they do.
The Shift has reported how it was months ago the names of hundreds of individuals, mostly party loyalists, appointed on government boards were inexplicably removed from the government’s official website.
The online service now only provides the name of entities with no further information.
This latest development comes as the government continues to try to control public information and public debate on its administration of the country.
More restrictions have been imposed since Abela was anointed Prime Minister in what appears to be a deliberate strategy to stifle debate and restrict freedom of information.
While the government-controlled state television station, PBS, has removed popular discussion and current affairs programmes from its schedule – watering down any semblance of proper debate to talking heads discussions controlled by loyal ‘journalists’ – the Prime Minister also frequently refuses to entertain interview requests from the independent media.
In the case of The Shift, an army of publicly paid ministry communication assistants consistently ignore questions while Abela gives instructions to challenge The Shift’s FOI requests in court. The Shift has won all of these challenges so far with the help of its supporters.