The Shift wins 4 more FOI appeals filed by the government to deny information

The Shift has won another four 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.

The latest appeal cases were filed by the Economy Ministry, Finance Ministry, Social Justice Ministry and the Police Corps.

The total number of cases won by The Shift to date is 18, with no losses. There are still pending cases.

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

The Shift is battling 40 legal challenges to Freedom of Information requests it submitted to government agencies.

One case against the Lands Authority remains pending in court while The Shift continues to battle the others at the Information and Data Protection Commission Tribunal chaired by lawyers Anna Mallia and Noel Camilleri.

As The Shift has won every appeal so far at the Tribunal, the government is filing court cases to repeal that decision. The Court, presided over by Justice Lawrence Mintoff, ordered the ministries to make all information on the payments available.

In their appeals, the ministries argued that the documentation requested by The Shift “did not exist”. This excuse was shot down by both the Information and Data Protection Commissioner and the Tribunal and has now been confirmed by the Court.

In the rulings for the near identical cases appealed individually by the government, Judge Mintoff said: “The court reminds the appellant that they cannot expect the [Freedom of Information] law to be interpreted in its narrowest sense, to the point that it allows the appellant to escape its duties.”

“The court considers the way in which the information is given irrelevant as long as the request is fulfilled in its substance,” the rulings said.

The court also dismissed arguments by the government, which claimed the information requested would be too costly to gather. The decision states that the government “besides not providing evidence of the costs, clearly already has all the information requested”.

International organisations have called out the Maltese government’s actions to muzzle and financially cripple an independent newsroom holding government to account, with 40 legal challenges to defend on Freedom of Information requests.

The Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović also said the 40 legal challenges send a “chilling message” to other newsrooms.

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 18 government entities that took the case to court after the Tribunal’s decisions have lost their cases and must now provide the requested information.

Judge Mintoff ordered them to cover all legal expenses from the Information and Data Protection Tribunal cases and the Court of Appeal.

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10 days ago

I don’t know why they keep trying to hide information that should be public sjnce taxpayer money is involved.

They should be held personally liable to pay costs not the taxpayer.

7 days ago
Reply to  Wish

Because they either forgot they promised us transparency or because they only know how to lie.

10 days ago

ROBBER Abela, the 40 times loser.
What a disgrace for Malta.

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
10 days ago

We are living in the days of good governance, transparency, accountability, delusion, uncontrolled corrupt practices, an administration which in fact resembles a secret society more than a political party, led by serial liars and fraudsters, who tell us they are proud to have collected 20% of the fake benefit payments racket but not retrieved one cent of the 400,000,000 that was stolen and enjoyed by international Vitals fraudsters and “individwali distanti” from the Labour Party”, except for a few bird company consultants and friends.

9 days ago

A hearty WELL DONE, you guys are the in the vanguard of normalising the TRUTH a word hated and scorned by these diabolical incompetents. Prosit

7 days ago

Bravo to the Shift for exposing all the MLP’s sleaze.

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