The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Update: PM denies he broke face-mask rules, says 'stricter' measures will be taken as IGM cries foul

Friday, 23 October 2020, 12:21 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Office of the Prime Minister has denied that the Prime Minister broke mask-wearing rules while taking questions from journalists on Friday, and said that “stricter” arrangements for activities will now follow.

The Office of the Prime Minister was reacting to a statement published by the Institute of Malta Journalists, which lambasted the Prime Minister for taking his face mask off while answering questions from journalists, saying that he had breached rules which govern the wearing of face-masks.


“The Prime Minister is cosistently wearing a mask as per the terms of the legal notice, while it is being removed, as the Superintendent for Public Health stipulated that it can, while he is addressing the public”, OPM said.

The statement reads that it is the responsibility of the individual to take care of themselves and those around them, and adds that in this case, the journalists themselves should maintain a safe distance between them.

“The Prime Minister was asked by the media to take questions, which he did, and it is the responsibility of journalists as well not to congregate”, the statement reads.

It continues that journalists were given instructions from the Prime Minister’s officials to move back, and it was said multiple times that microphones should be attached to an extender.

“It would be good if the IGM can instruct its members to adhere with these instructions”, the statement reads.

“Since the government believes that this is something which the government must be proactive in dealing with, therefore from the next activities, other – possibly stricter – arrangements will be made”, the statement reads.

“One hopes that there isn’t anyone who thinks that the Prime Minister or any other member of the government is doing this in order to stop or inhibit journalists from doing their job”, he statement continues.

“What is sure is that the Prime Minister – maybe unlike other politicians – never shied away from scrutiny from the media”, it concludes.

Earlier: IGM 'very disappointed' after Prime Minister removes face-mask to field questions

The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) 'is very disappointed at the complete disrespect' with which the government is treating the laws of Malta, journalists, the general public and the recommendations of the Superintendent of Public Health.

"The attached picture speaks for itself. At an event which could have very easily been organised to include social distancing, this was heedlessly flouted by none other than the Prime Minister Robert Abela himself. This, in the face of relentless 3-figure statistics of people getting COVID-19, of an incredible backlog of cases at contact tracing and an economy which is suffering as much as the health of the people who operate it. Not to mention the sharp rise in mortality in recent weeks."

"The legal notice LN 402/2020 says: 'The temporary removal of face masks shall be permissible in the following situations: ...(d) during official public speaking provided that a physical distance of at least two (2) meters between individuals is maintained'. It is safe to say that, without any form of measuring stick, this distance was not kept by the Prime Minister whose duty it is to set an example."

"While there is little more that the IGM can do other than note events and encourage adherence to the law, it also expresses its solidarity with any journalist who walks away from such situations. It sympathises with those who feel that where appropriate measures for safe distancing are not taken, the event should not be covered." The IĠM calls on trade unions to take the matter up and direct their members to safety.


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