The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Broadcasting Authority Stands by decision to censor journalists’ questions

Wednesday, 19 August 2020, 15:52 Last update: about 5 years ago

The Broadcasting Authority (BA) will not back down from its decision to censor the questions made by journalists during a live press conference on state television.

The reason why the BA forced the public service broadcaster to censor the questions was to avoid the political element provoked by some questions from journalists present” for a recent press conference.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the BA stated that it resorted to such a decision because of two rulings issued on 16 and 26 June following complaints by the PN.

It said that, “in light of all the circumstances surrounding the complaint lodged by the Nationalist Party against PBS Ltd, the Authority considered that, while the Prime Minister’s press conference was of national interest, and which in itself did not create an imbalance in appropriate impartiality, the political comments made were the result of unforeseen questions from journalists and were not related to the measures announced at the same conference.”

“This has led to an imbalance in proper impartiality in accordance with the provision of Article 119 of the Constitution of Malta,” the statement said.

It said such a decision needed to be taken in order to avoid broadcasts which are strictly about medical issues related to the Coronavirus pandemic from turning political.

Questions are still be allowed on other digital platforms, it added.

The BA explained that although they were not broadcasted on state television, “this did not mean that the questions of the journalists were not asked or were not answered.”

“This only meant that the questions put did not fit into questions and answers that the public broadcaster was obliged to transmit under directive of the Broadcasting Authority.”

This will apply for news conferences that provide information on the COVID-19 pandemic but are addressed by politicians.

The BA also rejected the allegation that its legal consultant is Mark Vassallo, who is also the legal adviser for PBS, as this is “evidently an unresearched and entirely fabricated statement.”  The Authority’s legal adviser is Ian Refalo.

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said Wednesday that “a political imbalance should not be addressed by creating a media blackout.”

He added that, a government news conference should never be addressed by censoring journalists or putting a muzzle on their mouths as the fourth pillar of our democracy does not only entail the right but also the duty to ask the most pertinent questions in order to bring out the truth.”

The Nationalist Party could never agree with the decision that journalists should be silenced as it believes that in a democratic country everyone has the right to speak.

Delia stated that the political imbalance was created by Prime Minister Robert Abela due to his partisan remarks and his use of national media to gain some political advantage.



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