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November 29, 2018 - Updated on November 30, 2018

Malta's Speaker of Parliament tries to censor news site

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that the speaker of Malta’s parliament ordered The Shift News, an independent news website, to amend a report about a parliamentary debate. This is an unprecedented act of censorship by one of the highest institutions of the state, RSF said.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia issued the order on 20 November at the request of Glenn Bedingfield, a ruling party representative who claimed that the report published by The Shift News two days before misrepresented his statements. But instead of suing the website or asking to use his right of reply, Bedingfield demanded a correction.

 

Speaker Anglu Farrugia issued the order on 20 November at the request of Glenn Bedingfield, a ruling party representative who claimed that the report published by The Shift News two days before misrepresented his statements. But instead of suing the website or asking to use his right of reply, Bedingfield demanded a correction.

 

According to the website’s report of the parliamentary debate, recent revelations by Reuters and the Times of Malta about the alleged payment of bribes to Maltese politicians were dismissed by Bedingfield as “opposition lies” and “disinformation.”

 

We strongly condemn this latest press freedom violation in Malta, in which the representative of one of the highest institutions of the state is trying to censor a media outlet, violating its independence with the aim of intimidating it,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF EU-Balkans desk.

 

If the parliamentarian thought his statements were misrepresented, he should have used his rights under the media law instead of asking parliament to simply censor the press report.”

 

The Shift News told the speaker on 26 November that it “declined” to change the content of its coverage of the parliamentary debate and the recent revelations about 17 Black, a mysterious company said to have channelled bribes to Maltese politicians.

 

After a joint visit to Malta in October, a year after journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, RSF and five other press freedom and free speech NGOs were of the view that the Maltese authorities are not complying with their obligation to protect press freedom.

 

This latest incident confirms that assessment. Malta is ranked 65th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, 18 places lower than in 2017.