The opposition has upped the ante from the judicial protest it filed against Public Broadcasting Services at the beginning of the month and has taken the public broadcaster to court to ensure the state broadcaster stops “eroding the right to factual information”.
Nationalist Party Secretary General Michael Piccinino filed a court case earlier today aimed, the party said, at ensuring the publicly-funded state broadcaster comports itself in a manner that “befits a true democracy”.
“The Nationalist Party will not allow Robert Abela and his government to censor those who do not agree with them from public broadcasting, which is being used as if it were a Labour Party propaganda machine,” the opposition said.
It added that the case will also seek to ensure that the Broadcasting Authority provides a true balance in national broadcasting and that it is no longer complicit in the ‘propaganda’ by failing to take appropriate action when an imbalance occurs.
At the beginning of August, Piccinino had filed a similar judicial protest against PBS and the Broadcasting Authority, asking the court to condemn and stop them from “perpetuating the censorship of anything critical against Prime Minister Robert Abela, which has persisted for years.”
The judicial protest took particular aim at the state broadcaster’s refusal to report on and broadcast the scenes outside parliament on 12 July after government MPs shot down an opposition motion calling for a public inquiry into the construction site death of Jean Paul Sofia in a parliamentary vote.
After an initial complaint of impartiality from the opposition, the Broadcasting Authority penalised PBS for not broadcasting the footage but it stopped short of forcing PBS to air the report.
Last July saw a scathing court ruling against the Broadcasting Authority, PBS and Minister Owen Bonnici when the Constitutional Court confirmed a July 2022 judgement that found PBS broadcasting during the 2022 general election had been unconstitutional and partisan.
In its judgement, the court described how the PBS failed to maintain impartiality in its reporting on politics and policies, and ignored the BA’s notices on the matter. The court also stated that the BA on its part failed to act on PBS’s disregard.
The court ruled PBS and the BA breached Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with freedom of expression, and Article 45 of the Maltese Constitution, which concerns protection from discrimination – in this case on the basis of political opinion.
The court dismissed the government’s line of argumentation and revised the civil court’s ruling to increase damages to be paid by PBS and the Broadcasting Authority from €1,500 each to €5,000 each.
The opposition is being represented by lawyers Paul Borg Olivier and Francis Zammit Dimech.