Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi is playing “hide and seek” with the media, with his latest dodging tactic being to organise press conferences without inviting the press.
The Institute of Maltese Journalists yesterday issued a statement calling his behaviour “unacceptable”, saying it was “deliberate” and “discriminatory”, as well as being intended to exclude the press from asking him questions about his “serious allegations of ministerial misconduct”.
Mizzi was the face of Labour’s 2013 pledge to build a new power station, which is now a central aspect of corruption allegations. Documentary evidence published last week shows that one of the owners of the power station also owned Dubai company 17 Black that was destined to pay €150,000 every month into the secret Panamanian companies of Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
“The minister is duty-bound to give Maltese journalists reasonable access and to interact with the media by restoring the democratic tradition of publicising his appearances, instead of employing hide-and-seek tactics to spurn the free press. A free and unhindered press is essential to the proper functioning of any democratic society,” the IGM said.
“Denying the free press reasonable access to government ministers and events denies the public a critical interlocutor with the power to ask questions. By bypassing the free press and speaking only to the national broadcaster and party media, the government short-circuits a public bond of trust with the free press, readers and society. It is therefore unacceptable for government ministers to deliberately avoid the public’s questioning on matters of national importance,” the IGM added, pointing out that government ministers were democratically elected to their parliamentary seats and were expected to account for their decisions and actions by interacting with the press.
The government has not yet replied to the IGM statement. Lovin Malta has sent questions to government communications head Kurt Farrugia.
SPIN ALERT: #PanamaPapers minister @KonradMizzi uploads short videos of himself being interviewed by his own party’s TV channel and the national broadcaster during a “press conference” for which no press call for the independent media was issued by the #Malta government pic.twitter.com/obelxwkKio
— Claire Caruana (@ClaireCaruana) November 13, 2018
Konrad Mizzi again fails to issue press calls to independent media. Instead he posts photos of cosy interviews with the state broadcaster and the Labour Party’s media channel during an event the rest of the press knew nothing about https://t.co/1REI2Yy0Qz #17Black pic.twitter.com/omaiPJ52NA
— Jacob Borg (@BorgJake) November 13, 2018