Journalists spent the early hours of Friday 29th November blocked from leaving Castille following a long late-night Cabinet meeting, but it seems like the only thing as enraging as the incident itself is the Prime Minister’s official response to it all.
One week after a number of journalists – including Paul Caruana Galizia – filed a judicial protest against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the Attorney General over the episode, the Institute of Maltese Journalists has now hit out at Muscat for what they deemed to be “insulting” comments to the country’s journalists.
The judicial protest (filed the day after the incident in Castille) had claimed the journalists’ rights were breached when they were stopped – “illegally” – from leaving after the 3am press conference. Of course, the fact that the “security officials” blocking their path were unknown, plain-clothes, silent individuals only exasperated issues even further.
In his official reply, Muscat argued that it was part of a normal procedure that did not constitute any illegal action of breach of rights.
According to the statement, in fact, this procedure is always followed in public events, specifically to avoid people crowding at the doors and creating a security risk.
However, IGM was quick to slam the Prime Minister’s comments, showing how it only made matters worse.
“The Prime Minister’s reply continues to confirm the serious problem journalists are facing in Malta,” the damning statement begins.
Going on to highlight the fact that at no point where the journalists present briefed about any such arrangement, IGM highlighted another important fact; at no past event attended by the Prime Minister had any such procedure been adopted.
“Never before this occasion has this protocol ever been followed, if it even really exists at all,” the statement goes on.
IGM went on to condemn the Prime Minister’s mentions of crowd control and security risks as an “insult” to journalists, specifically because members of the press have never caused any such risks. “Actually, on various occasions, it is they who have found themselves in security risks while trying to carry out their duties,” IGM argued.
Finally, IGM’s statement turned its focus to the mysterious individuals who were blocking the door on that fateful night.
“In his counter-protest, the Prime Minister did not say anything about the people who blocked the doors to the hall with the presence and did not allow the journalists to leave,” IGM stated. “He implicated that these people, who did not want to identify themselves and had absolutely no form of identification, were ‘security back-ups’.”
“If they’re not employed by the government, then who got them there?” IGM demanded. “And why was the need felt, only in this one occasion, for there to be security back-ups, when all the journalists allowed to enter the press conference had all previously identified themselves and are all journalists of good faith?”
“The government’s highest authorities truly do not have any respect towards members of the press,” IGM concluded, going on to yet again “strongly condemn” what went down following last week’s press conference.
You can read IGM’s full statement below: