The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: Is the silent day still relevant?

Friday, 7 June 2024, 16:18 Last update: about 2 months ago

The day before every election in Malta is known as the day of silence, or the day of reflection.

On this day, and also on voting day, nothing can be broadcast or printed on any matter intended or likely to influence voters. It was created to give voters a break from all the political talk, all that happened during the campaigns, and reflect on everything in order to be able to make the most informed choice.

It has been an article in the law that has been questioned, debated and challenged over the years.

There have been times in the past where media has faced the consequences for breaching the silent day. In 2011 for example, the Broadcasting Authority had issued fines to three broadcasting stations for infringements on the silent day during the divorce referendum.  There have been others.

But this article of law was written in a very different time. As times changed and technology advanced, its relevance has been brought into question.

The use of social media exploded when compared to 10 or 15 years ago. We’ve seen situations where political adverts continue on during the day of silence in the past. In the 2022 elections for instance, peoples’ social media feeds were still being bombarded with political advertisements. This is not to mention that people can easily post on social media and discuss issues openly, and publicly.

Thus the flaws with this law become apparent because of this very point.

There are of course arguments in favour and against the idea of a silent day. For instance, as previously said, it serves as an opportunity for people to reflect. But at the same time, if some major issue pops up which the public have a right to know about, the media’s hands might be tied. But one must also point out that time does not stand still for 48 hours, the world keeps moving, so while journalists might not be able to write about something, it would still be discussed on social media anyway albeit without any checks being made by journalists.

Another point that must be made is that there have already been thousands of people who cast their vote, during the early voting held on 1 June for example. There was no day of silence for them.

In a time when information is everywhere and is so easily accessible online and through social media, it is harder than ever before to enforce a law stating that something cannot be spoken about for an hour, let alone 48. This begs the question, is the day of silence still relevant, or is it an article of law that should be scrapped? If the law is obsolete, then perhaps it should be removed.

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