A controversial decision to force the national TV station to censor journalist questions at live press conferences is “final”, the Broadcasting Authority said today.
The authority is defending its decision to not stream journalists’ questions on state television, claiming that political imbalance during the Prime Minister’s press conference on the relaxation of COVID-19 guidelines resulted from unforeseen questions from journalists that were unrelated to the measures being announced.
“In the first decision, and in the 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,” they wrote.
“This has led to an imbalance in appropriate impartiality in accordance with the provision of Article 119 of the Constitution of Malta.”
The authority noted that this was not the first time that journalists’ questions were not broadcast during a live news conference, and stressed that the questions can still be streamed by other news outlets.
“As a result of this decision, it does not mean that the questions of the journalists were not asked or answered, it only meant that the questions put forward did not fit into the questions and answers that the public broadcaster was obliged to transmit under this directive.”
“Journalists’ questions were still asked and could also be reported by media outlets, including independent and political ones – the same entities that are now complaining about the Authority’s decision.”
The Broadcasting Authority is further denying the allegation that they are making use of the same legal adviser as PBS. “The Authority’s legal adviser is Professor Ian Refalo, who has been the Authority’s legal adviser for a long number of years,” they wrote.
The Nationalist Party has also criticised the Broadcasting Authority’s decision, despite being the ones who lodged the complaint in the first place. The hold that the political imbalance was created by the Prime Minister who took the opportunity to promote partisan issues.
Bernard Grech, the PN leadership hopeful, further condemned the decision much, saying that there is “more serious and urgent work to do to ensure balance and impartiality in broadcasting in Malta than to abuse its position and censor questions from journalists during a press conference by the government of the day.”
The Broadcasting Authority landed in hot water after deciding to ban the streaming of journalists’ questions on TVM and TVM2. The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) denounced the banning, calling it “state-sponsored censorship courtesy of the Broadcasting Authority.”