Journalists have asked the police to investigate cases where people have sought to hinder their work four times in the past five years, of which three took place in the last two months of 2019 alone.
The other report was filed in 2018, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri confirmed in response to a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Therese Comodini Cachia.
The 2018 report concerns a journalist was stopped from filming “a person responsible for cleaning a locality in Valletta,” in an apparent reference to the regular clearing of the Daphne memorial at the foot of the Great Siege Square monument. Then-Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, who was responsible for public cleansing, was found guilty of breaching human rights of those maintaining the memorial: the practice has since stopped.
This case, Camilleri said, was closed after the worker concerned apologised to the journalist.
3 police reports filed in last two months of 2019
All other cases took place in the last two months of 2019, which were characterised by regular anti-government protests and which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. While names and exact locations were withheld from Camilleri’s answer – as per Parliamentary procedure – these cases can nevertheless be identified through the descriptions provided.
All three cases, Camilleri confirmed, were still being investigated.
One report concerned the detainment of local and international journalists within Auberge de Castille by men posing as security guards following an impromptu press conference in the small hours of 29 November, 2019. The incident led to international condemnation from press freedom organisations.
Another was filed two days later by Newsbook journalist Monique Agius, who was repeatedly shoved by members of Clint Camilleri’s staff as she sought to ask him whether he thought Muscat should resign. Back then, Camilleri was Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights; he has since been made Minister for Gozo.
The final report was filed days later by ONE reporter Nicole Buttigieg, over the receipt of a threatening letter.