The Shift wins two more Court of Appeal FOI cases to total 14, five remain

The Shift has won another two Court of Appeal cases filed against it by government entities in an attempt to conceal information about media expenditure which The Shift originally asked for through freedom of information requests in early 2022.

The most recent two cases were filed by the Ministry for Energy and Environment and the Ministry for Home Affairs, tallying up to a total of 14 cases won by The Shift.

The rulings mean that the ministries will now have to abide by The Shift’s Freedom of Information request and make available details of payments affected to MaltaToday co-owner Saviour Balzan or any of his associated companies since 2013.

The Shift is battling 40 legal challenges the government has launched against The Shift. Five cases are still pending in court while The Shift continues to battle the rest of the government agencies at the Information and Data Protection Commission Appeals Tribunal.

The Court, presided over by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff, ordered the ministries to make all information on the payments available.

In their appeals, the ministries had argued that the documentation requested by The Shift did not exist. This excuse had been shot down by the IDPC Tribunal and has now been confirmed by the Court.

In the case of the energy ministry, the Tribunal had said that “the [FOI] request had been made for information that [the Ministry and its departments] already had and legally ought to have had… meaning that the requested information is not new, but already existing information which [the Ministry] did not think to organise. For this [The Shift] is not to blame.”

The Court said “the fact that [the Ministry] did not like [the IDPC Commissioner’s] decision does not make the Commissioner wrong”. Justice Mintoff also reminded the Ministry that it could not “expect the law to be interpreted restrictively to the point where [the Ministry] can escape its legal duties”.

The cases have been characterised by various international media freedom organisations as SLAPPs, or strategic lawsuits against public participation, intended so the plaintiff, in this case, Malta’s government, can muzzle or financially cripple media organisations for its own end.

The Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović has also said that the 40 cases send a “chilling message” to other newsrooms, who might in turn self-limit the pursuit of legitimate questions in the public interest.

The Shift fought back thanks to reader donations, pro bono work from BCGL Advocates and international organisations supporting legal defence work against such abuse.

All 14 government entities that have lost their last-ditch efforts to SLAPP The Shift will now be obliged to provide the requested information.

They have also been ‘slapped’ back by being ordered by Judge Mintoff to cover all the legal expenses from both the Information and Data Protection Tribunal states of the cases as well as those incurred before the Court of Appeal.

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2 months ago

Prosit. Very good effort, long may you continue to be a thorn in their side.
The Truth always hurts.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
2 months ago

The way that prime minister Robert Abela treated the issue of Jean Paul Sofia shows that the PL conspires with a criminal organisation.

2 months ago

Well done, again!

2 months ago

The reasonable way for the PL govt would be to ditch the last remaining five, but there is no way to anticipate this from a party that is in itself unreasonable.

Wasting taxpayers money is what the PL is good at, nothing more.

Congratulations to The Shift and I hope that the PL govt is to lose the remaining five as well.

Gillian Camilleri
Gillian Camilleri
2 months ago

Well done!! The Shift standing up to be counted and fighting for freedom of expression…always a point of ready, reliable reference

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