Prime Minister Robert Abela has refused to answer questions filed under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, regarding his use of Facebook.
Lovin Malta was seeking information about the administration of the Facebook pages belonging to Abela and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, as part of an ongoing campaign to see better regulation and more transparency on the use of social media by politicians, particularly when taxpayer money is used on personal pages.
In its official request, Lovin Malta asked to know the names of the official administrators of the pages, how much taxpayer money was spent on Facebook boosts and content, whether any content was produced by the government specifically for such pages and the total cost of such production.
The Principal Permanent Secretary within the Office of the Prime Minister rejected Lovin Malta’s FOI request on the grounds that the information “is not held by the Public Authority”. It also said there were “no grounds for believing” the information is held by another public authority.
Lovin Malta appealed the rejection, given that the information should be readily available from Facebook records which can easily be accessed by the account holder.
Past and present Cabinet members are currently under a magisterial inquiry into their “widespread misuse of public resources” on social media, following an investigation by the Standards Commissioner which was triggered by Lovin Malta.
The government has also rejected another FOI request by Lovin Malta to publish the official Social Media Code by which ministers and parliamentary secretaries should be abiding.
Meanwhile, more than 4,200 people have signed a Lovin Malta petition calling for the publication of this document. The petition also calls for ministers to refund any taxpayer money they used on their personal Facebook pages.
At least €1.2 million of public funds were used on Facebook boosts between 2013 and 2017, according to public records.