Abela flouts face-mask rules in journalists’ press conference

Institute for Maltese Journalists says Prime Minister must wear face-mask when addressing journalists

Robert Abela addressing the press in Santa Luċija
Robert Abela addressing the press in Santa Luċija

Prime Minister Robert Abela was taken to task by the Institute of Maltese Journalists for not wearing a face-mask while speaking to journalists who were, ironically, questioning him over the effectiveness of masks in bars and gyms.

Abela has defended his government’s decisions to retain bars open till 11pm along with mandatory mask-wearing.

“The attached picture speaks for itself. At an event which could have very easily been organised to include social distancing, this was heedlessly flouted by none other than the Prime Minister Robert Abela himself. This, in the face of relentless 3-figure statistics of people getting COVID-19, of an incredible backlog of cases at contact-tracing and an economy which is suffering as much as the health of the people who operate it. Not to mention the sharp rise in mortality in recent weeks,” the IĠM said in a statement.

Malta’s latest rules on masks states that the temporary removal of face masks shall be permissible during official public speaking, provided that a physical distance of at least 2m between individuals is maintained.

“It is safe to say that, without any form of measuring stick, this distance was not kept by the Prime Minister whose duty it is to set an example,” the IĠM said.

“While there is little more that the IĠM can do other than note events and encourage adherence to the law, it also expresses its solidarity with any journalist who walks away from such situations. It sympathises with those who feel that where appropriate measures for safe distancing are not taken, the event should not be covered. The IĠM calls on trade unions to take the matter up and direct their members to safety.”

Reaction by the Prime Minister, blames journalists

A press release issued by OPM claims that IĠM are "factually incorrect" in saying that Robert Abela does not adhere to legal notices. They said that the responsibility to maintain social distance is the responsibility of the individual - in this case, the journalists were not keeping a distance. 

"In this case, the journalists have to keep a distance between themselves. The Prime Minister requested the media so that he can take questions, as he did, and it is the responsability of journalists not to congregate."