A report prepared by the government-appointed ‘Media Experts Committee’ advising on adopting legislation to improve press freedom in Malta has not yet been submitted to the prime minister despite the committee’s extended mandate officially closing by the end of June.
Government-appointed committee secretary Frank Mercieca said that all committee members have not yet signed this year’s report, preventing it from being submitted to parliament earlier.
It is understood that the pending signature is of IGM President Matthew Xuereb, who has so far failed to sign the document.
The delays mean Prime Minister Robert Abela cannot table a copy of the committee’s recommendations to parliament as required by the government’s terms of reference since the House will be in recess from Thursday until September.
The situation repeats what happened in June last year when the committee delayed submitting a report with its reactions to the draft legislative agreements proposed by the government for three months from April until June.
Last year’s setbacks allowed Abela to successfully delay tabling the report before the summer recess, preventing it from being publicly scrutinised until October 2022.
Given the committee’s delays in submitting their end-of-mandate report, a similar situation is expected to arise, with the committee’s suggestions, discussions and proposals likely to remain hidden from the public until parliament reconvenes in autumn.
Mercieca told The Shift, “It is not within the Experts Committee’s remit to share copies of the document as this is a prerogative of the government”.
The Shift recently reported how the committee’s mandate officially ended last month, having already been extended six months from its original end date in January.
The committee chose not to answer questions from The Shift, which asked for details on the work achieved since the beginning of its mandate and during their six-month extension.
The committee only said it “is committed to respecting the extended mandate date” and that “the extension has enabled the committee to conduct further consultations and take stock of various observations.”
The consultation process held was harshly criticised as a box-ticking exercise.
Mercieca said that the Committee provided no further details for him to relay when pressed on further consultation and observations.
The committee’s stance is characteristic of the entire process surrounding the implementation of the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry recommendations for an improved media landscape, with the protracted process involving a lack of disclosure, constant unexplained delays, and disappointing results.
The media experts committee includes IGM president and Assistant Editor at The Times of Malta Matthew Xuereb, Media Today co-owner Saviour Balzan, Malta Today’s editor Kurt Sansone, University Pro-Rector for Student and Staff Affairs Carmen Sammut, Criminology Professor Saviour Formosa and chaired by Michael Mallia, a former judge who was one of three handling the public inquiry on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Background on the media experts committee’s mandate and progress is available here.