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30 September 2014

Uninvited media 'free to pay their own way' to accompany PM

 - Thursday, 17 July 2014, 17:50

Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon defended the government’s new policy to only invite selected media to accompany Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on overseas trips, stating that a fair rotation system was being adopted.

Customarily, all media would be invited to accompany the Prime Minister on press trips abroad, but this all changed when Dr Muscat visited China earlier this month. Only PBS, The Times and MaltaToday were invited to send journalists at the government’s expense: The Malta Independent was the only English-language newspaper not to be invited.

The government’s new policy was not made public until The Malta Independent sought an explanation, and the new policy prompted Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech to ask a parliamentary question to Dr Muscat: although since Dr Zammit Dimech is abroad, fellow MP Robert Cutajar asked the question on his behalf.

Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon


It was up to Dr Falzon to answer the question, and he pointed out that the government is adopting a rotation system for press trips, and will no longer cover the transport and accommodation costs of all media.

He insisted that the rotation system was fair, and pointed out that other newsrooms would be invited to accompany Dr Muscat when he visits the UK next week.

Dr Falzon also pointed out that other media were free to send journalists to press trips at their own expense, but did not take into account the possible difference in costs: flying to China, for instance, can considerably more costly than flying to the UK.

The China visit also gave the journalists present an unprecedented opportunity to ask questions to the elusive special envoy to China, Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi’s wife Sai Mizzi Liang, whose pay package – which reportedly amounts to some €13,000 a month when allowances and perks are factored in – has proven to be controversial.

It is questionable whether the UK visit will provide the media who missed the China trip with such a golden opportunity.

Dr Falzon also went on the defensive in his reply, questioning whether the opposition was casting doubt on the integrity or impartiality of the three journalists who were invited at the government’s expense. At one point, he also insinuated that the opposition would want to select the journalists itself.

Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech 


In the written answer PM Muscat gave to the question, he remarked that he hoped that Dr Zammit Dimech was not implying that the journalists who joined him in China - Reno Bugeja (PBS), Ariadne Massa (The Times) and Saviour Balzan  (MaltaToday) were not journalists of integrity and impartality.

He added that other media have been invited to join him on a trip to London and Glasgow next week.

Following this newsroom's complaints, The Malta Independent has been invited to accompany the PM on this visit, where he will meet the Queen.

6 comments

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George Calleja says:
18 July 2014 12:25

Mezz wiehed hemm ghal gvern intransigenti. Ibbokkjottjaw dawn iz-zjarat u tirrapportawhomx. Tara kif ibiddel fehemtu. Biex jiehu lir-razza u ir-redika sac-Cina kellu flus. Il-kelb tal-PM kienu jonqsu jiehu mieghu. Imma ghal gurnalisti ndipendenti-- ghax l-ebda persuna li marret ma hi ndipendenti-- iridu jhallsu. Dik demokrazija!!!!

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Charlie Brown says:
18 July 2014 09:47

Why should we pay for this? Also politicians should save our money and stay in a bed and breakfast and NOT fancy hotels. They should give an example. All they do is spend and lord it. Malta is small and politicians should remember that and NOT compare themselves with larger more economically powerful countries.

Politicians are pompous crooks by nature.

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Michael Walter says:
17 July 2014 21:12

Let's have a level playing field. All media reps can pay their own way, Why should Joe Public pick up the tab ? They are already paying to hear the 'news'.

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Joe Martinelli says:
18 July 2014 14:05

Michael, all major media journalists should be treated the same and the PM should decide which media he recognizes as meriting a government paid airfare to wherever the PM goes. If the government found enough euro to pay ONE individual 13,333 euro a month, surely it can scratch enough to have two or three more journalists to accompany the emperor wherever he goes!
If exclusivity is given to 'some' government leaning journalists how can the public be assured that pertinent questions are asked and stories in these papers or TV stations are factual and not purposely edited to make the government look better?
Jo-Jo's insincerity is glaring and asking Dr. Dimech whether he questioned the integrity and impartiality of the three 'journalists' who accompanied him, is defensive and a blatant attempt to deflect Dr. Dimech's question.
The question of integrity and impartiality of the three, had better be opined by the public and not by Jo-Jo who hand-picked them to accompany him to Communist China!
Jo-Jo may be surprised by the public's perception!

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Michael Walter says:
19 July 2014 00:49

Joseph,my opinion is, that no journalist should be financed by the taxpayer.
The other issue, with regard to obscene 'salaries' for jobs reserved for 'the boys or girls', is an insult to all that have to put in a fair days work,for less than a fair days pay.

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Joe Martinelli says:
19 July 2014 22:01

Michael, in a perfect world, I would agree with you that journalists should be able to be sent to wherever the government goes, at their employers' expense. However we do not (yet) live in a perfect world since no media entity in Malta can afford the cost of sending their employees across the globe for some 'memorandum' signing by the prime minister.
It is the sacrosanct duty of any government to inform the public of what it is doing on its behalf, a concept, which this government has yet to grasp. Instead it hand-picks journalists, feeds them what it wants and they faithfully turn Jo-Jo's sound bites into a story of half truths and whatever else he decides to feed them.
With regard to obscene salaries for their boys and girls, I fully agree because as you put it, there are thousands of civil servants who have put in a fair day's work for years on end and were never recognized for their sterling service. More so when there was a change in government.
But, this is Malta, ruled by a small minded dictator who has a low self esteem and is fixated at keeping the appearance of having complete control by running roughshod even on his own.
"Uninvited media should pay their way" is a statement which clearly shows the arrogance and cockiness of a swollen head buoyed by a majority which he is assured of, for the next three and a half years.

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