Ministries spending hundreds of thousands to manipulate press reports

Instead of inviting journalists who can ask questions to ministers' events, packaged news reports are being sent to the media that publish them instead of independent coverage.

 

Government ministries are spending hundreds of thousands of euro of taxpayer money to create their own coverage of their activities, which is then sent to newsrooms instead of allowing journalists to attend in person, raising further concerns about the public right to unbiased information.

An investigation by The Shift based on data tabled in parliament found that since the COVID-19 pandemic, ministers have hired videographers and editors to film, edit, and package clips on their official activities to be sent to newsrooms, who broadcast it instead of their own coverage.

Nationalist Party MP Darren Carabott asked every minister to state whether they hired a videographer in 2023 and, if so, what were the costs.

While only a few ministers replied, their responses show that many have hired those who worked on their own personal campaigns.

Prime Minster Robert Abela hired his campaign photographer, Gareth Degiorgio, through a €31,200 annual contract.

Minister Ian Borg put his campaign photographer, Ray Attard, on a ‘consultancy’ contract while his real tasks centred around filming and photographing the minister.

Among the other ministers who replied, the Office of the Prime Minister, Health Ministry, Energy Ministry, Gozo Ministry, Inclusion Ministry, Finance Ministry, Housing Ministry and Education Ministry also admitted hiring videographers at a total cost of over €250,000 a year.

This is despite the existence of the Department of Information, which employs full-time photographers and videographers tasked with capturing government ministers during their official duties.

How does the system work?

An example of how the system works was given by Prime Minister Robert Abela last week.

The press was not invited to a tour of the building of a new primary school in Msida, a project which is some four years late.

Usually, through the Department of Information, accredited media are sent a daily calendar inviting journalists to ministerial activities the following day. This time, and increasingly on other occasions, Abela’s visit to the school was not announced to the media.

The DOI’s official coverages list leaves out the PM’s visit to Msida Primary School.

Accompanied by his videographer, Abela toured the school, met all those waiting for him during the pre-arranged visit, and gave comments to his videographer.

Following Abela’s departure from the site, newsrooms were sent footage of the visit, along with comments and a press release carried by most media, including the independent ones.

All set. A government press release ready with edited footage and comments while journalists were kept away.

In this way, Abela acquired positive coverage of the event without journalists asking any questions.

The latest practice is just one aspect of how the government manipulates the media agenda.

Other aspects include the disbursement of hundreds of thousands of euro in advertising to friendly independent media, buying sponsored content, dishing out of state-sponsored PBS programmes and taxpayer funds to select media.

                           

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Joe Azzopardi
Joe Azzopardi
16 days ago

Newspeak

makjavel
makjavel
16 days ago

Competing with Bollywood?

makjavel
makjavel
16 days ago

Wait until we get AI Generated ministerial speeches.

D. Borg
D. Borg
16 days ago

This is also a blatant illegal way of financing an electoral campaign by the politicians concerned.
After spending years availing of practically such direct orders, or being recruited abusively as a ‘person of trust’, or worse still as a Civil Servant, the videographer will surely allow a substantial discount on the bills (if any) issued to the politician on his/her personal campaign to get elected.
The Electoral Commission is playing the three monkeys!

Charles Vassallo
Charles Vassallo
16 days ago

Serious and independent media should boycott such shameful propaganda.

Such undemocratic conduct from the LP government tantamount to a LP Dictatorial government regime. Listen to hear and do not listen to ask questions… that’s LP for you.

Charles Vassallo
Charles Vassallo
16 days ago

Where on earth is the opposition?! Wait, do we really have a functional opposition party at?!

Charles Vassallo
Charles Vassallo
16 days ago

It’s about time to get rid of this corrupt cabal in power! No words or opinion letters shall remove such a corrupt Labour government Malta has ever seen.

It’s time to take action and eradicate such corruption!

Take to the streets with protests and if need be, civil disobedience.

It’s time to clean the pig sty and remove the pig’s trough.

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