Candidates defy ‘day of silence’ with active ads on Facebook and YouTube

Chief Electoral Commissioner hesitantly says reports flagged to the ommission will be forwarded to the police for investigation

Several candidates across Malta’s political spectrum have continued to run adverts on social media through Friday, despite the law prohibiting campaigning the day before an election.

The ‘Day of Silence’ or ‘Day of Reflection’ restricts politicians from campaigning and the media from reporting anything political on the day before the general election. 

Despite this, there are at least 22 active advertising campaigns running on Facebook alone, while several video adverts pop up on Youtube.  

Many of the adverts have been running throughout the week, with candidates failing to stop distribution in time for the day of silence. 

But some candidates opted to pay for advertising campaigns on silent day. These include Romilda Baldacchino Zarb, Katya De Giovanni, Robert Cutajar and Anthony Agius Decelis.

Article 114 of the General Elections Act clearly states that political parties are precluded from any sort of campaigning on the day before the election, banning them from using “any means of communication to the public” on “any matter intended or likely to influence voters”. 

Anyone in breach of the law is liable to a maximum €1,164.69 fine or to imprisonment for up to six months. 

Malta’s Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Camilleri said that any reports will be forwarded to the police for investigation. However, he said that certain adverts might not be in breach of the law if the advertising campaign started before the day of silence. 

Antonio Ghio, President of the Malta IT Law Association, explained that internet adverts are not exempt from silent day rules by law.  “The law is not in sync with today’s technological realities,” he said. “Decency and ethics dictates that you switch off these adverts on silent day.” 

He added that a discussion needs to take place to determine whether the law on silent day needs to better reflect today’s realities.