Just as Mark Laurence Zammit was announcing his exit from the TV show L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa due to “excessive PBS interference”, Prime Minister Robert Abela was, quite ironically, pledging to strengthen journalism.
Speaking on ONE Radio, Abela said the government’s next step following the publication of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry will be to embark on a process to strengthen the local journalism industry.
“We should strengthen the fourth estate of democracy,” the Prime Minister said. “Changes have taken place in recent years, such as the removal of criminal libel, but we must now together map out the basis for the sustainability of the industry.”
“During the pandemic, we gave media houses financial assistance to keep them afloat but we must now look beyond the pandemic and not only think in terms of financial sustainability but about strengthening the industry.”
The public inquiry proposed a number of recommendations to strengthen the journalism industry, including revising the Freedom of Information Act, clamping down on SLAPP suits, fairly distributing government advertising among media houses, and establishing a Commission for Journalistic Ethics.
Abela said he has invited the Institute of Maltese Journalists to embark on a process to discuss what recommendations should be implemented.
However, just as the Prime Minister was calling for journalistic reforms, the credibility of the government’s own broadcaster in safeguarding the editorial independence of its journalists took a huge hit, as Mark Laurence Zammit announced he will stop presenting the Wednesday discussion show L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa due to excessive interference from PBS.
“In recent months, I faced a lot of interference from PBS which didn’t leave me free to work according to my journalistic principles, and was hindering my loyalty towards my audience,” Zammit said on Facebook today.
“I therefore took the decision to stop presenting this programme. My loyalty was, is and remains to the people, and not to political powers.”
“This is the hardest decision of my life, because [presenting the show] was my greatest life dream. But even the biggest dream can become a nightmare if you can’t live it in peace with your conscience.”
L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa itself hasn’t been axed, and it is believed it will remain on air but with a new host.
Cover photo: Prime Minister Robert Abela interviewed on L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa last year
Will you miss Mark Laurence Zammit on TVM?