BA turns down Grech’s request for meeting as he doesn’t officially hold an office

Sarah Cassar Dymond

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Broadcasting Authority has turned down a request by Partit Nazzjonalista leadership hopeful Bernard Grech for a meeting over a recent decision by the said authority, citing not officially holding an office as a reason for its refusal.

Last Monday, the Broadcasting Authority stopped PBS from broadcasting questions at the end of a press conference by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and Public Health Superintendent Professor Charmaine Gauci.

The decision has been slammed by the Institute of Maltese Journalists and rule of law NGO Repubblika.

Writing on Facebook, Television Malta had explained that PBS could not broadcast the questions posed by the journalists at the end of the press conference which was aired on TVM and Radju Malta. This was done in line with the decision taken by the Broadcasting Authority on 16 June, the national broadcaster had said.

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.

Lawyer Bernard Grech, who will face embattled leader Adrian Delia in the upcoming leadership race in a one-on-one contest, had written to the Broadcasting Authority requesting it to revoke its decision.

Grech insists that decision goes against the public’s right to know
“Broadcasting Authority is censoring journalists” – IĠM

Grech had maintained that questions put forward during a press conference addressed by a politician especially when the executive is involved could in no way create a media imbalance as long as all the media houses were invited to participate in such conferences. Grech had slammed the decision saying that it went beyond its function as provided for in the Constitution.

The BA’s chairperson Frank Farrugia replied to Grech’s request for a meeting saying that the authority could not hold such a meeting in the current circumstances since he does not formally hold an office. Farrugia reiterated the authority’s position that it stood firmly by its controversial decision.

BA must uphold the public’s right to information – Dr Grech

Dr Grech expressed his concern following the Broadcasting Authority’s statement noting that instead of clarifying the issue it allowed for more doubts on whether it was fulfilling its duty.

He stressed that he could not fathom how the authority thinks it was in line with its functions as provided for by the Constitution to censor questions from the media on the national station. The PN leadership hopeful noted that the authority allowed the broadcasting of the journalists’ questions on other media stations but not on the the national station. Grech remarked that by doing so, the authority and national broadcaster were admitting that they were failing in their mission to serve their audience.

Grech noted that it was strange for the authority to refuse meeting with him when in its letter it said that it had no difficulty in meeting with all the stakeholders but at the same time refused to meet with the lawyer citing not holding office as a reason. Grech pointed out that complaints could be filed by an ‘affected person’ according to the Constitution irrespective whether they hold office or otherwise.