The Labour Government’s fraudulent press reform

Jonathan Attard: Justice Minister. Don't laugh, yet.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Institute of Journalists met the Justice Minister to discuss the report. The Justice Ministry is supposedly, still “analysing” a report by a sham press reform committee run by pro-government members.

There is no discussion about a press reform. There is a secret report drawn up by pro-government members including Saviour Balzan and Carmen University pro-rector Carmen Sammut. Then there is a proposal by the government, drawn up by the previous Justice Minister Edward Żammit Lewis, to enact a SLAPP law disguised as anti-SLAPP. Then there is the government’s proposal to introduce a sentence about the free press in the constitution which basically means absolutely nothing this year.

Then there is the warped reality of the media companies such as MaltaToday and the Times of Malta which although having good journalists are dependent on revenues coming from government advertisement. The Institute of Journalists does not represent the sector of the press such as The Shift News whose revenues are completely independent of the government. And just to make it clear, this is not an attack on my friends at MaltaToday and The Times, but the actual reality on the ground which is conditioning the legal process. The government will conveniently appease MaltaToday owner, Saviour Balzan and call its reforms a press victory while the reality is a totally different matter.

Journalism in Malta is hampered willfully and intentionally by the government by covering up information and refusing to disclose its activities, all the while it pumps millions of Euros of public money into subsidies to official and unofficial propaganda including its own media arm. Public contracts, energy purchases, public expenditure, and wealth disclosures of public officials are just some of the items that government conceals on a daily basis. As with regards to public records in relation to companies or even public archives, journalists often have to pay government fees to obtain records to the extent that research is prohibitive to most journalists and media houses. For example, just one annual report of a Maltese company costs €5 to the Malta Business Registry when I could get it for free if it was a UK company.

In addition, no real and actual discussion is being made with regards to actual prohibitive local laws on journalists. For example, I have two cases against me initiated by the corrupt MP, Rosianne Cutajar: a criminal case where she accuses me of insulting her and threatening her and a civil libel case. I was never approached by the Institute of Maltese Journalists nor by the sham press committee instituted by Robert Abela. The only organisation which reached out to me is the Daphne Foundation.

There is no discussion by the government on press reform. The government is trying to force an outcome with the aim to get some positive headlines in its favour. Personally, I am not the kind of journalist who likes to get scammed, so I’m pronouncing myself clearly on this press reform for what it is: a total fraud.



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