PBS refuses to reveal Norma Saliba’s resignation letter and contract

The Maltese state broadcaster, PBS, has refused to make public the resignation letter of former head of news Norma Saliba, who ‘resigned’ following a protracted disagreement with its chairman, Mark Sammut.

Saliba, a former Labour Party reporter who worked for PBS since 2013, said she resigned for “personal reasons”. But sources told The Shift that the journalist received several disciplinary warnings over the last months, mainly for insubordination.

Ultimately, the power struggle with her boss ended with the politically appointed Sammut, backed by Prime Minister Robert Abela, edging her out.

When The Shift filed a Freedom of Information request for Saliba’s resignation letter, which sources say contained harsh criticism of Sammut, the broadcaster refused, citing “commercial sensitivity” without further justification.

The Shift has appealed the PBS decision because such information is in the public interest, and the commercial sensitivity argument has no legal basis in this case.

But this is not the first time the state-owned company has refused to divulge information of interest to the public, as PBS also turned down a request from The Shift for Saliba’s contract. The same reason, “commercial sensitivity”, was also given in this instance.

The pressure on Saliba to resign after months of conflict with Sammut came with the golden carrot of another government post, albeit one much less influential. Internal sources told The Shift that Saliba told the prime minister she would only leave her position if she kept her perks and salary from the state coffers.

She was then appointed CEO of the newly created ‘Centre of the Maltese Language’, aiding the National Council for the Maltese Language in its “administrative and organisational tasks implementing the Maltese language and identity”.

The need for the centre, funded by taxpayers, to be created remains unclear. However, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, whose ministry oversees the centre, said it would “make a difference in safeguarding the Maltese language officially within digital spheres”.

The creation of the position and the agency is seen as a bid to appease Saliba, the wife of Manuel Micallef, former head of news at the Labour Party TV station, ONE TV. This becomes even more apparent as the Maltese Language Council has publicly said it was not formally consulted about her appointment, in breach of the law.

Since Sammut, an IT professional who has never worked in broadcasting, was made chairman, PBS has been accused of restricting information. This runs contrary to its mission of openness and accountability, particularly considering it is state-owned and funded by the public purse.

Sammut has also turned down several other FOI requests regarding his decisions, general operations, and the board’s activities, fostering a climate of non-transparency.

In particular, he spent two years resisting the publication of his contract and waged a legal battle with lawyers, paid by PBS and taxpayer-funded, to argue that it should not be made public. Sammut argued that PBS is a commercial entity and, as such, should not be open to such scrutiny.

However, following a request to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner to investigate, Sammut was found to be in breach of the law and ordered to supply all the requested information to The Shift.

The information revealed that while being paid more than €100,000 for his role, Sammut was also paid an extra €26,000 for chairing the board, which is a part of his role and should not be paid separately.

The Shift had also revealed that while Sammut manages PBS as a ‘one man show’ and only convened the board three times during 2022, he was being paid some €9,000 per board meeting.

Last week, Sammut also turned down a separate FOI request for a breakdown of how PBS uses some €6 million in annual state subsidies to fund TVM programmes. While other broadcasting bosses handed over the information, Sammut refused to divulge how taxpayer money is being disbursed, particularly about TV producers close to the current Labour administration.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
20 days ago

It’s in the freezer.

Francis Said
Francis Said
20 days ago

When things stink in any government entity, commercial sensitivity is the excuse given.
In a private entity this might be applicable, but certainly not in entities funded by taxpayers.

Carmelo borg
20 days ago


Emmanuel Cilia Debono
Emmanuel Cilia Debono
20 days ago

Whilst the conditions and contracts of employment of civil servants are open to public scrutiny, the contracts of service of political appointments are often hidden on the pretext of business confidentiality . Does the Public Service Commission realise that a big chunk f the public service ( including ‘persons of trust’ and NGO officials whose responsibilities often overlap and are interchangeable with those of civil servants fall outside the reach of the Commission? Is not this rally a breach of the principle of equality before the law ?

Related Stories

Malta’s population reaches record high placing strain on localities
Malta is experiencing unsustainable rates of population growth in
Editorial: Injudicious judicial picnics
News that judges and magistrates attended an event hosted

Our Awards and Media Partners

Award logo Award logo Award logo