BA stands by decision to censor press questions on state TV

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Broadcasting Authority has stood firm by its controversial decision to block TVM from airing the questions of journalists during live press conferences, insisting that this decision was final.

The decision was made in response to a complaint by the Nationalist Party, but the party’s embattled leader Adrian Delia has nevertheless disagreed with the decision, insisting that other solutions could have been found to address media imbalance.

The complaint was lodged in response to a broadcast last May, in which Prime Minister Robert Abela was deemed to have used a press conference for partisan reasons in light of his replies to journalists. The PN was granted a 10-minute broadcast as remedy, but as a consequence, press questions are no longer aired on TVM.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists strongly condemned the decision, accusing the BA of censoring journalists.

But the BA highlighted its obligations under Article 119 of the Constitution of Malta, which is to ensure that “so far as possible, in such sound and television broadcasting services as may be provided in Malta, due impartiality is preserved in respect of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy and that broadcasting facilities and time are fairly apportioned between persons belonging to different political parties.” Its decision, it said, sought to protect said impartiality.

The authority also highlighted that should journalists’ questions and the answers thereto not breach the requirement of impartiality, it had no issue with their broadcast in other settings. But it insisted that it could not allow a broadcast of national importance to become a “platform of political and partisan questions.”

‘Media blackout’ not the solution – Delia

In his reaction to the BA’s statement, Delia insisted that political imbalance should never be addressed by censoring journalists, in light of their important function in a democracy.

He also emphasised that the political imbalance had been created by the Prime Minister, who, he said, “seized control of state broadcasting and turned it into a political platform through press conferences which he has turned into partisan events.”

Delia also expressed solidarity with journalists, lamenting that press freedom in Malta was on a downward trend.